Sunday, July 25, 2010

Five best novels about success

Tad Friend is the author of "Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of novels on success.

One title on the list:
Of Human Bondage
by W. Somerset Maugham

A wrenching tale overdue for a revival. Philip Carey is a prickly, club-footed orphan whose youth in a rural vicarage is sustained by dreams of greatness—he's a Dickens protagonist with no waiting benefactors. Philip studies in Heidelberg and learns that God is dead. He paints in Paris but learns he lacks talent (God is still dead). He trains as a doctor in London and falls for a waitress named Mildred, whose indifference exerts an uncanny hold on him; she ruins him emotionally and financially (God's a goner, all right). Yet Mildred, too, engages our pity as she becomes a streetwalker and sinks to her doom; in Maugham's hands her shabby cruelties become piercingly sad. Philip, stripped of his hope and even his home, surfaces at last as a doctor in prosaic Dorset, engaged to the motherly daughter of a lower-class friend. He is a success not as he'd imagined but as the first existential hero. Maugham writes: "Life was not so horrible if it was meaningless, and he faced it with a strange sense of power."
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue