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Thursday, September 27, 2012
WS Maugham and David Goodis.
Posted by Alexander Anichkin

Russian version of this article is here.


Goodis, not Maugham.

This is a web experiment, please republish this photo of David Goodis (1917-1967), an American writer, but please don’t change the name of the jpeg file.

Here’s why. 

The English writer William Somerset Maugham has a memorable face, with piercing blue eyes and a thin hooked nose. Born in Victorian times, he became a fashionable playwright at the beginning of the last century, a popular novelist later, in the twenties, and his reputation as one of the greatest masters of the short story is unshakeable. His opus magnum, the coming-of-age novel Of Human Bondage, is one the rare examples of a literary work that acquired a cult status twice, first when it was published in 1910s and again in 1960s, when the writer was still alive and wrote a witty preface to the new edition of the book, where he complained that he can’t remember the story because he hadn’t reread it for nearly fifty years.

Unfortunately, Maugham is a bit unfashionable these days, probably because he is associated with British imperialism, unfairly. This is, perhaps, why a few websites, including in Russia (where his novels and stories are widely used as language learning aids), got into a muddle with his portrait, publishing the picture of a different writer, the American David Goodis, about forty years younger than Maugham. The picture below shows results of a Google image search for Maugham. (click on the picture to repear the search)


I didn’t know anything about Goodis, but the wrong photo annoyed me so much that I decided to find out who was in the picture. I don’t regret an hour or two I’ve spent compulsively searching on the internet and finding out that it was of Goodis. It turns out that he was a prominent novelist of the noire genre and had a successful career in Hollywood writing scripts and screen adaptations of existing literary works, until he suddenly and mysteriously quit and retired to his native Philadelphia where he carried on prolifically writing pulp for New York magazines. He sometimes churned out up to 10,000 words a day. 

While in Hollywood Goodis worked on a screen adaptation of Maugham’s play,
The Letter. This is probably why the mistake with the photo attribution occured.

I look forward to reading Goodis and I love Maugham. This is why I want the photo with the file name ‘Goodis, not Maugham’ to circulate on the net and get noticed by search engine spiders. Help.

The photo itself shows Goodis working on a script at Warner Brothers and, apparently, is in free domain. I have contacted
Centipede Press, who deal with Goodis’ work, and Larry Withers, a designer and photographer, who has published work on Goodis, and got their approval for republishing this photo of the writer.

Read more about him on
Shooting Pool with David Goodis.  Wikipedia also has an article on the writer..