Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oscar Wilde

1987, 1988 Knopf edition
Richard Ellman
Oscar Wilde
Original price $24.95, purchase price unknown
Hardcover in average condition

This book most reminded me of Sinclair Lewis: An American Life, in that the biographer spent many years (about twenty in this case) researching a controversial writer, wrote a long book that at times includes day-by-day itineraries, but never quite succeeded in making me like the subject as well as the writer's own works.  To his credit, Ellman seems to have liked Wilde much more than Schorer liked Lewis, but then Wilde seems to have been a nicer, more charming person, despite the heartbreak he caused his wife and children.  On the other hand, Schorer's book was much funnier, which hardly seems fair considering the relative wit of Lewis and Wilde.  I do appreciate that Ellman recognises that Wilde's main "crime" wasn't that he was gay but that he didn't hide it (much) compared to most of his contemporaries.

Merlin Holland (now 67), Wilde's only grandchild, and Merlin's son Lucian (now 34) are proud to be Oscar's descendants, although I found out more about them from Wikipedia than in the brief mention Ellman makes of them towards the end.

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