Woolf and Maugham

Today is the birthday, I’m told, of W. Somerset Maugham (1874) and Virginia Woolf (1882). Though only eight years apart by birth, they seem to inhabit different centuries, Maugham’s books harking back to the Victorians (his first novel, after all, appeared in 1897) with their masterful storytelling and straightforward approach to form, Woolf being the quintessential modernist–formal experimentalism in the service of exploring the mysteries of consciousness. No skills learned from reading one will be of much help in approaching the other.

One thing they do have in common: central places in major postmodern novels. A thinly veiled Maugham has a star turn in Anthony Burgess’ Earthly Powers, while Woolf herself as well as her novel Mrs. Dalloway occupy the center of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.