“Not Being Talked About”

31742378An article in Book Riot summarizing the recent spate of books on Oscar Wilde ended with a footnote.

*Two more books related to Wilde came out in 2018, Oscar’s Ghost by Laura Lee and In Praise of Disobedience: The Soul of Man Under Socialism and Other Writings, an anthology edited by Neil Bartlett. I do not know enough about them to discuss them.

The article began with the old Wilde chestnut “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

It has got me thinking about what makes a book worth talking about and what makes one worth mentioning in a footnote. It can’t be the quality or contents. You have to read a book to dismiss it for that. Is it the status of the publisher or the author? Is it the promotion budget? It’s a nut I haven’t been able to crack.

Let me just take a moment to tell you why I thought the story in Oscar’s Ghost was fascinating enough to spend a number of years on. One of the great literary feuds in history took place in the wake of Oscar Wilde’s disgrace and early death. By following the events in the bitter conflict over his prison work De Profundis you see how a writer who had a confusing public image and professional reputation in his time was transformed into the mythic figure we know today.

Put another way, it charts how Wilde came to enjoy “a wonderful posthumous life, portrayed as a tragic hero who fell victim of Britain’s anti-homosexuality laws and sentiments.” (To quote the Book Riot article.)

Also, some of the things that happened in the course of the feud are hard to believe.

Anyway, that’s why I thought it was worth writing, and that’s all I can say on why it might be worth reading.

 

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