I like any chance I get to think about Oscar Wilde, and there are surprisingly frequent opportunities in life to do so: Whenever one gives in to temptation, sees ghastly wallpaper, or greets a widow with newly blonded hair. Anytime you encounter someone so improbably youthful that you assume they have a ghoulish self-portrait in their attic. Whenever you write in a diary, or stay in a cheap hotel room in Paris, or leave your family to run across town to spend time with a pretty, mean-spirited young lover whose daddy is a Marquess and an inventor of boxing rules. Whenever someone in this world cannot find it in their hearts to believe that small-minded people are out to destroy them, and ends up doomed by their optimism.
But most often, and increasingly, one thinks of Wilde whenever brackened, unformed life lurches from the primordial mire and shapes itself. . .into an imitation of art. As happened in New York recently. (Ah! New York–the place where Wilde, upon his first visit, informed customs officials that the only thing he had to declare was his genius. See? Dude’s everywhere.) Continue reading