I received an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
“Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth.”
I’ve adored Oscar Wilde for most of my life. My parents used to buy my six Great Illustrated Classics every Christmas, and my favorite of these when I was about eight was The Picture of Dorian Gray. I can’t even count how many times I read that little abridged classic, but I would say that number is in the literal dozens. In fact, I loved it so much that I was afraid of reading the unabridged classic as an adult, for fear that it wouldn’t measure up to the book I had loved so much as a child. I couldn’t have been more wrong, while the illustrated classic of my childhood gave me the story, it didn’t deliver Wilde’s prose. I had no idea what I was missing. Today, Wilde’s original, unabridged novel is one of my very favorite classics I’ve ever read.
“Love is fed by the imagination, by which we become wiser than we know, better than we feel, nobler than we are. Only what is fine, and finely conceived, can feed Love, but anything can feed Hate…”
In college, I learned the story behind the author, from his flamboyant personality to his time spent in prison. However, while I found him a very interesting individual at that time, I am now completely fascinated by him. That is mostly thanks to this book. Holland has written one of the most engaging biographies I’ve ever read, in large part due to the informal, conversational format. The author imagined himself interviewing Wilde over a cup of coffee, and he managed to beautifully capture Wilde’s well-known voice in these responses. It was a lovely writing decision. I truly felt as though I was sitting in on an interview with a literary icon, and it was immensely enjoyable.
“I realized that there are only two tragedies in this world – one is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it. The second is much worse.”
Wilde was the Freddy Mercury of Victorian England, and the world wasn’t ready for him. He was witty and insanely intelligent and obsessed with all things beautiful and pleasurable. He created gorgeous art that far outlived him, but has been forever remembered for his (at the time) shocking lifestyle decisions and the ramifications he suffered for them. Wilde undoubtedly marched to the beat of his own drum, and couldn’t care less that the majority of society didn’t understand that rhythm.
“To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Holland’s little book did an amazing job presenting Wilde’s life, and I read it in an afternoon. My only complaint is that is wasn’t longer. But I think that this conversational style was a perfect choice for crafting an informative, engaging, highly readable biographical overview of a life that captivated and repelled the world in which he lived. I highly recommend this little book to anyone who has any kind of interest in literary rebels. I would love to read more biographical works written along the same lines, and am very open to recommendations!
“You must never destroy legends; it is through them we are given a glimpse of the real face of a man.”