The average rating for Unmasking of Oscar Wilde based on 2 reviews is 4.5 stars.
|Review # 1 was written on 2011-07-24 00:00:00|
I read Pearce's biography of Chesterton and thought it was ok. He did not offer a lot of insight and, for as much as I love Chesterton, he seemed to be too much of an apologist for him. I thought that Pearce escapes many of those faults in his excellent treatment of Wilde. Briefly, the negatives here are somewhat similar to the Chesterton bio. He mentions critics of Wilde's work, but I can't recall when he agreed with them. Surely some of them might have been right about something. But he is also critical of Wilde at times, and seems a bit more detached than his Chesterton treatment which serves him well here. I became interested in reading this when I discovered Wilde's fairy tales, many of which have direct Christian themes. I then realized that other works of his (like Dorian Gray) share many components of a Christian worldview. But wasn't Wilde a 'decadent,' who believed in art for art's sake, and so on? So who was Oscar Wilde? The answer in some ways is that he was both a highly intuitive spiritual man, and one also addicted to the social scene, one who loved to put on 'masks,' and one whose masks (like homosexuality, possibly) become a part of him. Pearce does not try and shoehorn a linear narrative out of his life to fit a preconceived pattern. Wilde had great interest in Catholicism during his college days, and this attraction would wax and wane at various points, finally culminating in his formal conversion in the final days of his life. Wilde's story is certainly tragic on many levels, but it did not feel overwhelmingly sad to me. Perhaps it could have happened in no other way. One subtext here that I appreciated was the 'Wilde vs. the Victorians' theme that runs beneath the book. One of my main critiques of the Victorians was that they were not interested in transcendence, but only morality. But morality without transcendence is a disaster waiting to happen, leading to rigidity, judgmental attitudes, etc. Here Pearce is right that at least some of Wilde's critics would completely miss the point. 'Salome' is certainly provocative, but in the end the lust of she and Herod destroys them both. Many could only cry foul, however, at the bringing up the theme at all, missing the larger point. Understanding the Victorian era is, I think, a key to Wilde's life. He went to seemingly polar extremes alternatively to rebel against it. I don't doubt that Wilde was a complicated, brilliant man, and so Pearce's work may not the definitive treatment. But all in all, his theme of how Wilde's 'masks' both alternatively reveal and conceal the true man does a lot for me to make sense of him.
|Review # 2 was written on 2016-12-24 00:00:00|
Excellent book. Pearce definitely has a good portion of Wilde's wit.
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