"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard."-Katha-Upanishad
Arguably Somerset Maugham's most popular and enduring book, "The Razor's Edge" (1944), like much of his work, has not aged well. While he's still in print, his reputation seems to have diminished. He was one of the last of that generation of British writers (Coward, Fleming, Amis) for whom English snobbery was an inheritance. Oddly, his protagonist, Larry Darrell (meant to recall author Lawrence Durrell) is an American who disillusioned by the war and society, goes on a spiritual quest in the East. The novel combines the adrift in Europe theme of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other Lost Generation writers with what I call the b.s. enlightenment story, which involves some kind of vague spiritual (not religious)/find yourself journey and can be found in "Siddhartha," "Into the Wild," and pretty much everything by Jack Kerouac. As a 21st century American reader, Darrell comes across as insufferable as only the well to do (he has a "private income") can afford to drop out and the other characters, which include a generous snob (really), a wild girl (who gets what's coming to her), and the droll narrator, don't come off as much better. At least it reads quickly. Filmed twice, once with Tyrone Power and once with Bill Murray. I'd advise reading whilst listening to the AC/DC album of the same name.

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