Truly Wilde by Joan Schenkar

cover of the book Truly WildeTruly Wilde by Joan Schenkar
Genre: Award Winner; Biography
Copyright Year: 2000
Published: 2000
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Basic Books
Format: Hardcover
Type: Electronic Format Available
No. of Pages: 442
No. In Series:
ISBN: 465087728
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She was lovely, sophisticated, and famous for her witty conversation, even in a social circle that was known for its fabulous talkers. The only child of Oscar Wilde’s dissipated older brother Willie, Dolly Wilde (1895-1941) led a life as scandalous and glittering as her uncle’s: she, too, loved her own sex, and her longest romantic relationship was with American heiress Natalie Clifford Barney, who was host of the most important Parisian literary salon of the 20th century. Unfortunately for Dolly’s posthumous reputation, she ‘was an artist of the spoken word’ whose only written legacy was her marvelous correspondence. Quoting liberally and perceptively from those letters, American playwright Joan Schenkar brings Wilde to life in a modernist biography that is written in prose as sparkling as Dolly’s fabled bons mots . Schenkar eschews conventional chronology to consider Wilde’s life thematically, from her lesbianism to her taste for smart society to her self-destructive identification with Uncle Oscar. She reminds us just how remarkable and accomplished were the women at Barney’s salon (journalist Janet Flanner, novelist Djuna Barnes, and artist Mina Loy, among them) and how much they esteemed Dolly Wilde. Yet, her biographer downplays neither Wilde’s addiction to drugs nor the sad loneliness of her death (possibly from a drug overdose) at age 45. This is essentially a tale of ‘squandered gifts and lost opportunities, ‘ Schenkar acknowledges, but she successfully provokes readers to share her admiration for Wilde’s prodigal generosity with both her talent and her affections. –Wendy Smith
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