Laurie Frankels

Of Dioramas and Human Bondage

Laurie Frankel

For our year-end Salon meeting (please don’t call it Book Club), we members assigned ourselves the task of making dioramas of a scene from a favorite book. Here’s mine. Can you guess?

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It’s Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, when Philip Carey meets Mildred Rogers in the coffee shop. Yes, that’s a teeny Philip Seymour Hoffman shoved off into the corner playing the part of self-abasing Mr. Carey. While reading the book I always pictured rail-thin Mildred as rail-thin Keira Knightly (but with her top on). Imagine my delight when Keira decided to set all photo-manipulating editors straight by bearing some of it all. When I saw the photos I thought, how better to portray the sexual power Mildred wielded over hate-my-stinkin’-clubfoot Philip (Carey not Hoffman) than with a Godzilla-sized photo of Ms. Knightly proudly showing off the twins. The fact she donned black opera-length lace gloves for the shoot (and my diorama) is proof there is a God.

Initially, I neatly set the coffee cup and saucer on top of an upright table and extra chair, but when my dog knocked the whole thing over I saw the disarray and said, “Good boy!” It was as if my dog’s tail channeled Mildred’s fury.

How many ways did Philip “The Masochist” Carey self flagellate? Don’t make me count them, but I never tired of it. That Maugham articulated obsessive infatuation and its close cousin self-hate with such depth and precision amazed me because at one time or another we’ve all experienced Philip-Carey type longing. I mean, haven’t “we”?


Author, short-story writer, and humorist Laurie Frankel knows pain is the root of all comedy and is thrilled her life is so damn funny. Her books include “I Wore a Thong for This?!” and “There’s a Pattern Here & It Ain’t Glen Plaid,” about which Kirkus Reviews has this to say: “. . . laugh-out-loud funny . . . great practical suggestions . . . A quirky, earnest guide to regaining self-esteem for the modern woman.” Frankel’s literary work has appeared in ShenandoahThe Literary ReviewNorth American ReviewAlaska Quarterly Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. She is the host of the upcoming website In the meantime, feel free to reach her at LauriesLoveLogic.