Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Declaring His Genius

Author: Roy Morris Jr.

Title: Declaring His Genius: Oscar Wilde in North America
Description: The book tracks Oscar Wilde on his speaking tour of North America.
Writing style: Morris’ discipline is history, not literature, and this book reads very much like a history book. It’s obviously based on primary documents, probably chiefly Oscar’s letters and newspaper accounts from the cities he visited. It reads a lot like a very detailed itinerary.
Audience: Literary scholars of Oscar Wilde might be disappointed. Frankly, I think the topic would have made a good, solid chapter in a biography, but the material was a bit skimpy and uninteresting to form the basis for a whole book.
Major ideas: Oscar took quite a bit of both lighthearted and malicious mockery and managed to remain fairly good-natured through it all. He formed a generally good impression of America and Americans in spite of the grueling schedule and the refusal of many to take him seriously.

Wrap-up: I hadn’t realized how very young he was when he came to the U.S. (28)—it was before his marriage, before the publication of any of his major works, and certainly before the scandal that would mark his later years. In other words, Oscar really had nothing to be famous for except for being Oscar—but he played that role to the hilt. 3/5*

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