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Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Wilde’

A Complete Guide to Flinging in Oscar Wilde

October 16, 2014 | by


August Macke, Eine Frau auf einem Divan (Woman on a Divan) (detail), 1914, watercolor on paper, 11.5" × 9".


I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your life as a gay man.


It’s been a somewhat checkered career as a gay man. I was never totally successful. I think it started in high school, when in grade ten or eleven I developed a fascination with Oscar Wilde. Some of my friends shared this fascination so we used to dress like Oscar Wilde and memorize his aphorisms and construct conversations in the lunchroom, as if we were Oscar Wilde and his friends.

—Anne Carson, the Art of Poetry No. 88, 2004

I also had an early fascination with Oscar Wilde, though mine hasn’t, to my knowledge, led to an exciting double life. In high school, as I read through Wilde’s plays and then some of his prose, I came to recognize a pattern: his characters were always flinging themselves onto sofas. That was the only word Wilde ever used for it, fling, and he used it inordinately, constantly; the more I looked for it the more it turned up. No one in Wilde’s domain, it seemed, could get any thinking or moping done without first flinging oneself onto the nearest possible surface—cushioned, ideally, but not necessarily—and lighting a cigarette or bursting into tears. Over and over again, his lords and ladies had no recourse but to fling. They never pitched, cast, heaved, hurled, or tossed.

I didn’t object to this, as melodramatic as it was. In fact part of me aspired to such melodrama: I imagined that in adult life I would be confronted with one impasse after another for which the only cathartic response would be to fling myself onto a couch, weeping, smoking, or both. I was looking forward to it—if anything, I disappoint myself today with how rarely I’m compelled to do flinging of any kind. Little did I know that, as a teenager surging with hormones, I was at peak flinging age, with my best flinging days right there for the taking.

To this day, though, I associate the verb with Wilde; he left his mark on it, or it left its mark on him. Since today’s his birthday, I found his collected works online and made sure I hadn’t been deluding myself. Lo and behold, an amateurish concordance confirms that fling is everywhere. Herewith, then: your comprehensive guide to flinging in Wilde. Consult it in moments of emotional strife, perhaps just before or after your own bouts of flinging, and know that you are not alone. Read More »


The Other Yellow Pages

May 19, 2014 | by

Last week, the British Library launched Discovering Literature, an online collection of more than 1,200 items from the Romantic and Victorian periods, all of it meant to arouse interest in classic English lit. There are manuscript pages and juvenilia from Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Keats, Wordsworth, and Blake, among others, but the diligent forager will find Charles H. Bennett’s vivid illustrations for Aesop’s Fables; more than twenty-five drawings from Gustave Doré’s London: A Pilgrimage; nineteenth-century gynecological gaffes (“the majority of women [happily for them] are not very much troubled by sexual feeling of any kind”); and early vampire stories.

There’s also this: The Yellow Book. Not to be confused with the Yellow Pages or Redbook, The Yellow Book was an illustrated quarterly magazine with a provocative name; it came

from the notorious covering into which controversial French novels were placed at the time. It is, in fact, a “yellow book” which corrupts Dorian in Wilde’s original novel; this generally thought to be Joris-Karl Huysmans’ A Rebours (1884).

The founding principles were that literature and art should be treated independently and given equal status, and Aubrey Beardsley, illustrator of Wilde’s Salomé was appointed art editor.

Indeed, when Wilde was arrested in 1895, there were rumours he had been carrying a yellow-bound book. Though this was actually Pierre Louÿs’s French novel Aphrodite, a confused crowd thought it was a copy of this magazine, and gathered to throw stones at the publishers’ offices.

Those were the days, when the mere sight of a literary quarterly, or even something resembling a literary quarterly, could move a crowd to violence. The Yellow Book was published for only a few years, from 1894 to 1897, but it loomed large; nearly a century later, the scholar Linda Dowling called it “commercially the most ambitious and typographically the most important of the 1890s periodicals. [It] gave the fullest expression to the double resistance of graphic artists against literature, and Art against commerce, the double struggle symbolized by the paired words on the contents-pages of the Yellow Books: Letterpress and Pictures, Literature and Art.”



The (Microscopic) Tracks of My Tears, and Other News

May 13, 2014 | by


Tears of grief, photo © Rose-Lynn Fisher, courtesy of the artist and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; image via Smithsonian Magazine

  • Up for auction: an edition of The Importance of Being Earnest, warmly inscribed by one Oscar Wilde himself to Major James Nelson, the prison governor who permitted Wilde access to books during his stint at Reading Gaol in May 1895. “A trivial recognition of a great and noble kindness,” the inscription reads.
  • All this month, New York’s Elizabeth Street Garden celebrates the life and work of Robert Walser. “Much of his work and philosophies rest on the quiet magic and personal fulfillment of walking; the urban experience is full of such walks, and this is often how people discover Elizabeth Street Garden.”
  • Was Andrew Wyeth so celebrated because he was so misunderstood, or did it work the other way around? His reputation seems ill-fitting, whether you consider him one of the great American painters of the last century, as many laymen and a few professionals do, or a kitsch monger and conman, as many more professionals and a few sniffy, wised-up laymen do.”
  • In a new project called “Topography of Tears,” the photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher puts dried human tears under the microscope. She collected more than one hundred tears: tears of joy, tears of grief, onion tears, basal tears …
  • Many of our nation’s ice-cream trucks—though not, fortunately, Mister Softee—are blaring a jingle based on one of the most racist songs in American history.



Celebrating Alain Resnais, and Other News

March 3, 2014 | by

Screen shot 2014-03-02 at 5.03.52 PM

A still from a 1961 interview with Alain Resnais.



Opulence of Twaddle, Penury of Sense, and Other News

February 19, 2014 | by


Bierce in 1892, barely containing his rage. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.



Book Smart

October 16, 2013 | by


“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ―Oscar Wilde