Friday 31 March 2023


The Blob has had rather a lot to say about gratitude and the art of saying thank you [most recently]; like when I realized that editing newsletters was it's own reward and that expecting any readers to send cakes for my efforts was all frosting. I've ignored Mark Twain "Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for."

I resolved to take a break from the ould social media because I was starting to care what other people thought about my comments. It's not a good place to be, because pleasing a bunch of para-social randos is a recipe for regression to the mean until we all sound like each other. It makes the world a very boring place if there is no grit of dissent.

There is only so much entertainment to be got from staring at the ceiling - especially in winter when there are no flies drowsily circulating up there. Accordingly, casting about for something to read, I pulled from the shelf East & West, a collection short stories by W. Somerset Maugham [bloboprevs], and opened it at random. Maugham was a story-teller and to achieve that he needed to be a story getter: travelling outside his echo-chamber; conscientiously listening to other people; probing and poking and goading a bit . . . et voilá! more copy. The Back of Beyond [full text; cw: adultery, domestic abuse] is one of many set in the East: in particular colonial Malaya where the rubber [supervising, tapping, patriarching R] came from. It concerns a bit of adultery between two consenting adults married to others who should have stuck to being good neighbours but had inclination and opportunity to try something more interesting than watching geckos on the ceiling. For reasons, they agree to give up the ould nookie and return to their wedded spouses. He then dies [off-stage] and Her extravagant grief allows her husband to rumble his own cuckold's horns.

Husband is severely pissed off because his dignity is affronted and he goes to an older chap for advice about how to handle the divorce. Old Chap, calling up his own younger-self experience, says he'd be mad to divorce his wife just because she had a fling with another bloke. Husband rails on about how he's always giving and few seem to appreciate his generosity. To which Old Chap, with characteristic Maugham cynicism retorts:

"One mustn’t expect gratitude. It’s a thing that no one has a right to. After all, you do good because it gives you pleasure. It’s the purest form of happiness there is. To expect thanks for it is really asking too much. If you get it, well, it’s like a bonus on shares on which you’ve already received a dividend; it’s grand, but you mustn’t look upon it as you due . . ."
 "You'll have to walk warily. She'll have a lot to forgive too . . .you're behaving very generously, old boy, and, you know, one needs a devil of a lot of tact to get people to forgive one one's generosity.

I posted the whole of The Verger, another story by Maugham a while back. I like Maugham's writing: his insights into the human condition seem to hold value in our different world.

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