—W. Somerset Maugham

Maugham displays an intelligence so willing to observe the worst that I cannot imagine liking him. Or rather I can’t imagine him liking me. And, yes, I do often create imaginary friendships with writers, friendships in which I thank them for their work, flatter them up a bit, ask for advice or clarification. But despite Maugham’s tough-mindedness, I have read him at length and with pleasure. The position he takes here seems unassailable. Even though I have never been able to keep myself from seeking the company of celebrities. Sometimes I drop their names. Each time I do this, I add another proof to Maugham’s hypothesis.