A few weeks back, I discovered Oscar Wilde. As one who strives quite hard to belong to the ranks of the well-read, I agree that it’s indeed shameful to have ignored such a famed author for so long. In self-defence, all I can say is that I had looked him up on Wikipedia long ago, in order to get a list of the books he’s known for, but (*cough*) I thought his style of living may not have produced an oeuvre which I may have been interested to peruse.
Having said that, I found myself downloading his play ‘A Woman Of No Importance’ from the Gutenberg website some time back. (As an aside, I’d like to thank those guys – they’re doing a great, great job. Kudos.) Why? Because the title caught my attention, of course, as it would, of any feminist worth her salt. Outraged sisters of mine, calm down. The absolutely fitting last line of the play is ‘A man of no importance.’ [I wonder whether this will get masculinists on the warpath? ;)] The heading made me forget my prejudices against the author, and for once, I was glad I’d let them go.
A Woman Of No Importance is a play full of the epigrams which Wilde was (apparently) famed for, and being someone who enjoys witticisms and word plays of all kinds, I was delighted with the book. It’s a satire, and though the plot isn’t all that special, (watching it being performed may have been better than reading it, but not by much) the dialogues and quips were so worth the read that I found myself wishing that I’d thought of them. (Yes, I suffer from a bad case of hubris.) It’s a pity that those who seem clever are also shown as being cynical and on the wrong side of the ethical standard; and those with any good feeling – merely earnest. The characters are well represented, though, which leads me to recommend the book to all those with a well-developed sense of the absurd.
Examples of the kind of wisecracks that are a part of the play:
“It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.”
“Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humour in the woman. Or the want of it in the man.”
“But do you believe all that is written in the newspapers?
I do. Nowadays it is only the unreadable that occurs.”
The final verdict: I definitely want to read more Oscar Wilde. The Importance of being Ernest and An Ideal Husband are next on my list, and though I’ve heard of The Picture of Dorian Grey as belonging to the “classics” list of publishers, I’d like to know if the book is worth it’s fame, before delving in. Recommendations, anyone?