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text 2018-11-24 07:43
24 Tasks of the Festive Season - Day 9 / Task 1 - Thanksgiving
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays - Oscar Wilde
Bad Blood: Secret and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - John Carreyrou
The Black Echo - Michael Connelly

Task 1: List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.

 

I´m going with the most "thankful" part of this task. These books might not be my five star reads of the year, but they are the books that I´m most happy about having read this year.

 

  1. The Importance of Being Earnest because it is an utterly delightful play and it brought absolute joy into my life while reading it.
  2. Bad Blood: Secret and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-Up because it taught me never to trust a blond woman with blue eyes, who tries to stare me down and talks to me in a deep fake voice. This book has been utterly fascinating and it has shown me once again that most people are morons, who just want to believe what they want to believe at any giving moment.
  3. The Black Echo because this book has been my introduction into the world of Harry Bosch. I´m really looking forward to read more of this series.

 

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review 2018-11-17 06:32
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays - Oscar Wilde

It´s a short play, so I`m not going to give a synopsis of the book. Besides, the story is completely bonkers and I wouldn´t even know where to begin in explaining the plot.

 

However, what  I´m going to tell you is that this play is utterly delightful. The dialogue is amazing, Lady Bracknell is a hoot (as are the other characters) and I loved every single page of it.

 

I´ve read The Importance of Being Earnest for the Festivus square (read any comedy, parody or satire) and it´s been a perfect read for this square.

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text 2018-11-16 19:54
Reading progress update: I've read 16 out of 370 pages.
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays - Oscar Wilde

GWENDOLEN: [...] The moment Algernon first mentioned that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

JACK: You really love me, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN: Passionately!

JACK: Darling! You don´t know how happy you´ve made me.

GWENDOLEN: My own Ernest!

JACK: But you don´t really mean to say that you couldn´t love me if my name wasn´t Ernest?

GWENDOLEN: But your name is Ernest.

JACK: Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean you couldn´t love me then?

GWENDOLEN (glibly): Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

JACK: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don´t care much about the name of Ernest ... I don´t think the name suits me at all.

GWENDOLEN: It suits you perfectly. It´s a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations. 

JACK: Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names . I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

GWENDOLEN: Jack? ... No, there is very little music in the name of Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations ... [...]

 

Oh boy, poor Jack ;). This is brilliant.

 

I´m reading The Importance of Being Earnest for the Festivus square.

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review 2018-10-27 00:10
The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde
The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde - Oscar Wilde,Rupert Hart-Davis,Merlin Holland

Before I go into why I loved this book, I should make clear that I have not read the entire correspondence that is contained in this book - this is a 1230-page volume!

I have mostly browsed correspondence and opened the book at random to read whatever letter such method revealed to me. However, there were letters that were of particular interest to me and that caused me to pick up the book in the first place, such as Wilde's correspondence to Lord Queensberry and the letters relating to his trial and imprisonment.

 

What I have found with this wonderful book is that:

 

- Wilde was a humorous and warm correspondent. There are several letters in this collection that were to unidentified correspondents who seemed to be members of the reading or theatre-going public, who just decided to write to him. Wilde evidently did not know these people, and yet, he still answered the letters in manner that felt engaged with whatever it was that the senders had asked him. 

 

- Wilde had a LOT of social engagements and used them negotiate advances on plays and writings. At least, much of the correspondence seems about that - not just for himself but also for other writers, actors, and producers.

 

- The letters to Bosie's mother show a genuine, deep concern of Wilde's over Alfred's well-being. The both may have been toxic for each other (Wilde and Bosie, I mean), but from the letters to Bosie's mother, it appears Wilde did seek help when he feared Bosie to be in danger of harming himself. (The book doesn't contain the answers to his letters, so I do not know whether Bosie's mother acknowledged Wilde's concerns.)

 

- Letter to Bosie that Wilde wrote from Reading Gaol which is commonly published as De Profundis is contained in this volume also, and it was extraordinary to see the letter in the context of the other correspondence of the same time, in which Wilde mostly tried to settle his affairs, asking for debts to be paid following the trial. For whatever image we may have of Wilde as the flamboyant bon vivant, he was serious about settling debts and not owing people dues. 

Of course, Wilde's imprisonment didn't just deprive him of his freedom, he also lost most of his contacts and some of his business partners took advantage of Wilde not being able to pursue them for fraud or theft or not-paying his royalties. He was thoroughly stripped of his civil liberties and his rights. 

 

And this is where the book was really hard to read. It really shows the change from Wilde being a student, to becoming famous, to falling from grace, to being utterly dependent on the few friends that stayed loyal to him. At the end, there were only two of them. Two.

 

Here are some of the more harrowing passages from the letters to Reginald Turner about Wilde's prison stay:

"17 May 1897 

 

[...] I cannot tell you how good and dear it was of you in my eyes. Other people came forward with promises of large sums of money [...] every one of them has backed out.

   You, dear Reggie, simply and quietly and thoughtfully go and get me a beautiful and

useful thing. You make no noise beforehand: you blow no lying trumpets like Frank Harris: you don't pose as the generous friend: you simply do a sweet kind action, unostentatiously, and you are the only one who has really helped me on my going out. I can't tell you how touched I am: I shall never forget.

 The person who has sent me money to pay for my food and expenses on going out is my dear sweet wife, and you have bought me my travelling bag: and now I want yourself; I want you, if you can, to be ready to meet me when I go out, at Mortimer, a place six miles from here. 

I am ill, and unnerved. Already the American interviewer and the English journalist have arrived in Reading: the Governor of the Prison has just shown me a letter from an American interviewer stating that he will be here with a carriage on Wednesday morning for me, and offering any sum I like if I will breakfast with him! Is it not appalling?

I who am maimed, ill, altered in appearance so that no one can hardly recognise me, broken-hearted, ruined, disgraced - a leper, and a pariah to men - I am to be gibbeted for the pleasure of the public of two worlds!"

Wilde also brought home some of the less apparent issues of the criminal justice system of his day:

"27 May 1897 [to the editor of the Daily Chronicle]

 

Sir, I learn with great regret, through the columns of your paper, that the warder Martin, of Reading Prison, has been dismissed by the Prison Commissioners for having given some sweet biscuits to a little hungry child. 

 

I saw the three children myself on the Monday preceding my release. They had just been convicted, and were standing in a row in the central hall in their prison dress, carrying their sheets under their arms previous to their being sent to the cells allotted to them. I happened to be passing along one of the galleries on my way to the reception room, where I was to have an interview with a friend. They were quite small children, the youngest - the one to whom the warder gave the biscuits - being a tiny little chap, for whom they had evidently been unable to find clothes small enough to fit. I had, of course, seen many children in prison during the two years during which I was myself confined. Wandsworth Prison especially contained always a large number of children. But the little child I saw on the afternoon of Monday the 17th, at Reading, was tinier than any of them. I need not say how utterly distressed I was to see these children at Reading, for I knew the treatment in store for them. The cruelty that is practised by day and night on children in English prisons is incredible, except to those that have witnessed it and are aware of the brutality of the system."

Wilde does not provide any graphic details of the cruelty he experienced, but the change in his outlook on life is very visible. He was a broken man on his release.

 

The last letter in the collection is a letter to Frank Harris in which Wilde begs him to send the money that Harris owes Wilde so he can settle his doctor's bill, and the Epilogue included in this - I have to say it again - magnificent compilation includes the letters between Wilde's last two friends - Reginald Turner and Robert Ross - who both cared for Wilde in his last days as he was dying from meningitis. 

 

Simply heart-breaking stuff.

 

Lastly, I would like make another note about what drew me to this book in the first place - the book was a collaboration between Rupert Hart-Davis and Merlin Holland. 

 

Hart-Davis had previously compiled the first ever major collection of Wilde's letters in 1962, and continued to collect material and letters which he then published in 1985. It is the collaboration with Merlin Holland that, I suspect, adds another level of depth to this particular edition - together with a further 300 letters which Holland was able to add  from Wilde's family estate. For those not in the know, Merlin Holland is Wilde's grand-son. 

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text 2018-10-03 13:39
Halloween Bingo 2018 - Ghost Stories
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde - Oscar Wilde,Vyvyan Holland

No I didn't read the complete works of Oscar Wilde last night. Just The Canterville Ghost.

 

I think this was probably one of the first Oscar Wilde stories I ever read (along with The Happy Prince and Other Tales). And I enjoy it every time I re-read it.

 

I love the Otis family who are completely OK with buying a country house with a resident ghost, and who instead of being terrified by his clanking chains, offer him some lubricator to oil them. Because they're American and pragmatic and don't hold with that kind of nonsense.

 

Which is a shame, because Sir Simon (the ghost) takes his ghostly duties very seriously indeed and has a whole repertoire of scary characters which have worked very well for him in the past. Unfortunately he is no match for the Otis's twin boys who spend their time thinking up ways to trick him, including a 'ghost' made out of a bedsheet which scares the crap out of him. I reckon Kevin in Home Alone probably got most of his ideas from the Otis boys.

 

 

Funny, sad, and ultimately a happy ending. What more can you ask for?

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