Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To be read in the voice of Carl from Sling Blade

I read, The Moon and Sixpence it is a 1919 short novel by William Somerset Maugham based on the life of the painter Paul Gauguin. It took me 6 weeks, I reckon I understood a grat deal of it,Hmmmm. The story is told in episodic form by the first-person narrator as a series of glimpses into the mind and soul of the central character, Charles Strickland hmmmm, a middle aged English stock broker who abandons his wife and children abruptly to pursue his desire to become an artist hmmmm.
Strickland first goes to Paris and lives a destitute but defiantly content life there as an artist, lodging in run-down hotels and falling prey to both illness and hunger mmmm-mmm. Strickland cares nothing for physical comfort, but is generously supported by a commercially successful yet unexceptional Dutch painter, Dirk Stroeve, who immediately recognizes Strickland's genius hmmmm. After helping Strickland recover from a life-threatening condition, Stroeve is repaid by having his wife abandon him for Strickland. Strickland later discards the wife, who then commits suicide - yet another human casualty in Strickland's single-minded pursuit of Art and Beauty. I reckon he made a fair amount of sport of him hmmmm.
After the Paris episode, the story continues in Tahiti. Strickland has already died, and the narrator attempts to piece together his life there from the recollections of others. He finds that Strickland had taken up with a native woman and started painting profusely HMMMM. We learn that Strickland had settled for a short while in the French port of Marseilles before traveling to Tahiti, where he lived for a few years before finally dying of leprosy hmmm. Strickland left behind numerous paintings, but his magnum opus, which he painted on the walls of his hut in a half-crazed state of leprosy-induced blindness, was burnt down after his death by his wife under his orders hmmmm.
The inspiration for this story, Gauguin, is considered to be the founder of primitivism in art. The main differences between Gauguin and Strickland are that Gauguin was French rather than English, and whilst(oh sure, like that's a word I use!) Maugham describes the character of Strickland as being ignorant of his contemporaries in Modern art, Gauguin himself was well acquainted with Van Gogh. How many of the details of the story are based on fact is not known. However, Maugham had visited the place where Gauguin lived in Tahiti, and purchased some glass panels painted by Gauguin in his final dayshmmmm.
The book was filmed by Albert Lewin in 1943.

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