Tags: Somerset Maugham

Seligmann, Seligman, and Perfection

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: June 4, 2013
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WSM-cropI never would have noticed the error if I hadn’t decided recently to make a fictional family tree of the descendants of Miriam Seligman(n), known as “Savta” (Grandmother) in Blue Thread. As I went back over the electronic version of the manuscript, I discovered that about half the time I spelled Savta’s last name as Seligman. The other half of the time…you guessed it. Seligmann.

No one noticed. Not an editor or a copy editor or the author. What? Unacceptable!

After I did the usual muttering of expletives and mini-flagellation, I calmed down and accepted the inevitable. Writing, like most if not all human endeavors, is asymptotic to perfection. We strive, but we never quite get there.

Then I discovered this quote ascribed to William Somerset Maugham:

Perfection is a trifle dull. It is not the least of life’s ironies that this, which we all aim at, is better not quite achieved.

Maugham (1874-1965) was quite a well-known British writer (I should write so well), one of the most popular in the 1930s. He produced scores of novels, plays, and short stories. Orphaned at age 10, young William came under the care of a rather icy uncle. He later became a doctor, served in the ambulance corps in World War I, and worked as a spy for the British Secret Service. Certainly not a dull life.

In Britain each May, the Society of Authors presents the Somerset Maugham Award to the best writer (or writers) under 35 who published a book in the past year. The award money is to be spent on foreign travel. What a perfect way to spend an award. Did I say perfect? Never mind.

 

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