I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Not the easiest book to read, but it does provide a comprehensive view of Oscar Wilde and his family. And the author is correct, you don’t really understand Oscar the man without the backdrop of his famous family.
Unfortunately, I went into this expecting to adore Mr. O. Wilde, but I came away with my illusions dented, if not shattered. I kept wanting to shake him and yell, “That person doesn’t really care about you! Let him go!” or “Pay attention to your money, dammit!” I will probably regain my fondness for this brilliant man, but it was difficult to see how he fooled himself about so many things. After spending time in prison and penury, all for the sake of a man who must have been a narcissist, Oscar still didn’t “get it” and continued to think that loving the jerk was the thing to do. I’ve watched many women do the same thing, and it drives me crazy!
The whole family had money issues, i.e. they wanted to spend it, but they also wanted it to just magically appear with no effort on their part. I have some sympathy for them—I don’t want to go to work every day either. The difference is that I suck it up & go, whereas they tried marrying people, reissuing books, or just ignoring their lack of money until the problem was breathing down their necks. Oscar really didn’t stand a financial chance, as neither of his parents were dreadfully responsible with cash and he and his brother took that tendency to new lows for the family. To his credit, he endured a personally horrendous tour of North America, all for the money, but squandered that effort by spending the cash almost immediately.
It was also spooky to see how much Oscar’s marriage & affairs mirrored his father’s life. His father chose women while Oscar chose men, but the parallels beyond that difference were uncanny. We really do absorb patterns and behaviours from our families, don’t we?
Considering how small his output was, it is amazing how famous Oscar Wilde continues to be. There is absolutely no doubt that the man was a genius, even if he was a self-destructive one. I will continue to enjoy his many epigrams and his still-relevant & funny plays and try to purge some of my dismay with the realities of his life.