Oscar Wilde

( 2 )

Overview

The biography sensitive to the tragic pattern of the story of a great subject: Oscar Wilde - psychologically and sexually complicated, enormously quotable, central to a alluring cultural world and someone whose life assumed an unbearably dramatic shape.

Hailed as a masterpiece, Ellmann's biography of Oscar Wilde has been acclaimed as a perfect marriage of biographer and subject. With precision and wit and sensitive to the tragic pattern of the story, it brings Wilde...

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Oscar Wilde

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Overview

The biography sensitive to the tragic pattern of the story of a great subject: Oscar Wilde - psychologically and sexually complicated, enormously quotable, central to a alluring cultural world and someone whose life assumed an unbearably dramatic shape.

Hailed as a masterpiece, Ellmann's biography of Oscar Wilde has been acclaimed as a perfect marriage of biographer and subject. With precision and wit and sensitive to the tragic pattern of the story, it brings Wilde to life as never before. 32 pages of photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The late Ellmann worked 20 years on this magisterial biography. He tells the fascinating story of Oscar Wildewit and aesthete, poet and playwright, scapegrace and scapegoatmore fully and irresistibly than it has ever been told before. Ellmann captures Wilde's charm and high spirits and also the darker side of his personality, which led to increasingly public homosexual affairs at a time when homosexuality was legally a crime. Ellmann skillfully marshals his material some of it new, and he writes brilliantly but unobtrusively. A masterpiece to match Ellmann's James Joyce 1959, this work is certain to trigger renewed interest in Wilde. Keith Cushman, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394759845
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1988
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 454,067
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2001

    THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING OSCAR

    The Importance of Being Oscar An academic specialising in Anglo-Irish literature put to a conference audience the question: 'Is Oscar Wilde really a great writer? Why do so many of those who study his works end up by calling him 'Oscar' in a rather overfamiliar fashion?' Richard Ellmann's marvellous biography 'Oscar Wilde' lances the boil of academic pomposity underlying this negativism. An even perfunctory acquaintance with Oscar's acclaimed essay 'The Critic as Artist' would have inhibited even his detractors from making such a comment. Ellmann shows us a genius whose works are avidly read, studied, and performed over a hundred years after the London Establishment congratulated themselves on having finally 'Got Wilde'. Works which contiue to delight and intellectually stimulate audiences all the world. Poems, essays, epigrams, children's stories, novels and plays translated into many different languages and so brilliant that were they to bear any other name could still not fail to be equally enjoyed and admired. Equally admired but perhaps not equally loved. There is a difference. In this case the difference is 'Oscar'. Ellmann portrays the man behind the mask of wit and bon viveur, 'The spenthrift of my own genius' whom London society clasped to its bosom until it realised that he was mocking their pretensions and, by his indifference to convention, endangering the covering up of its seamy side. The portrait is as large and as uncompromising as his way of life. In Ellmann's pursuit of truth we are reminded of Hamlet's scene with his mother when he beseeches her to 'Look here upon this picture and on this' as the author relentlessly paints in the good and the bad. We are made to wonder at Oscar's folly, decry his sometimes bloated self-importance, bemoan his hedonistic lifestyle, and condemn his virtual abandonment,for self-indulgence, of his wife and two children.The author does not shirk all this but yet one senses that he is essentially engaged in a labour of love. We, readers, are gradually swept up in this love and come to accept Oscar's faultlines for what they are, shadows which cannot forever keep in shade the essential goodness, kindness, sensitivity, courage, and Christ like forgiveness that this towering giant of a man reveals to us after disaster strikes. A disaster that was patently avoidable but was not because he would not, or could not, control the forces that were swirling him toward his fate. All the traits in his personality were combining to facilitate the making of decisions which flouted reason and good advice to hurtle him to destruction. We are witnesses to a Greek tragedy which mostens our eyes with tears while bringing a wry smile to our lips as we suspect that Oscar would revel in his tragedy qualifying to being described as 'Greek'. We call him Oscar because we come to love him through the skill, dedication, research and absorbing storytelling of this biographer. Our love does not add one whit to the merit of his works but does add much joy to our appreciation of them. Who would not recognise Van Gough when we speak of him as 'Vincent'? Who, with any understanding of what constitutes art, would comment that he must be less than great because of a suggestion of being over familiar? So it is with Oscar. His place in literature is constantly being revised upwards as more becomes known about the man, his humility and humanity, not least through the recent publication of a 'Complete collection of his letters' by his grandson. Richard Ellmann has written other outstanding biographies, notably of Yeats and Joyce, books also written with love, but this is his masterpiece. Here the author finds the subject that inspires his greatest work and the subject finds the biographer who entwines the man and his literary legacy in telling a story which helps us to understand the vital 'Importance of Being Oscar.'

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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