This is one of the books I picked up last month in Amsterdam. During lunch breaks in my certification program, I walked toward the old university buildings along the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. I strolled down the alleyway called Oudemanhuispoort, where the old book market operates every day, and invariably I bought something. It’s not surprising I found some Somerset Maugham. There’s the whiff of the forgotten about him these days, and yet he’s always there, in every second-hand collection. I discovered him many years ago, and he had his impact on me. His prose was always a pleasure, calm and self-assured. Mr. Maugham knew how to tell a story. With time, the stories came to seem over-ripe, too sentimental for my tastes, but I could still find the prose soothing. It seemed to be composed of common sense. And this is something of the persona he projects in this, his last collection of essays. He writes about Goethe and about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. He writes about the short story, and he writes about writers with a rare sympathy, explicitly recognizing that, every day, writers must make a living. This doesn’t corrupt them. It informs their art, and it all turns out fine. This from an author as famous in his day for his riches as his art.