Sunday 17 December 2017

Perhaps we shouldn't be quite so wild about Oscar

Oscar Wilde was a self-pitying pederast with a slight literary output, yet we worship him

Pudding bowl: Oscar in the US in 1882 Photo: Napoleon Sarony
Pudding bowl: Oscar in the US in 1882 Photo: Napoleon Sarony
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

This month marks the 116th anniversary of Oscar Wilde's death and he looms as large over the cultural landscape as he ever did.

Colm Toibin and Patti Smith were amongst those who recently read from Wilde's works in Reading Gaol itself. In The Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole wrote last week of the "trauma tourism" that brought the less-literary minded crowds to the cell that once housed the playwright. The New Statesman last month played up the idea of Wilde as gay Jesus - its writer saw in the flowers now laid out in Wilde's old cell a metaphor for the modern victories of LGBT rights.

Wilde is probably the most accessible and popular figure in our literary pantheon. He's a tourist attraction, a saint, and an endless font of quips. If he were alive today we could doubtless add 'chat show wag' to the list.

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