laura_albert (laura_albert) wrote in the_doves_diner,

If any of y'all (and yes I am a Brooklyn gal (proud too, dang it) I reserve the right to use any slang I like – as  I always done did) get to see The Homecoming in NY - Ian McShane's performances bears out what Oscar Wilde said about theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. The way subtexts are played, allowed to breathe – we want black, or white… and life does not accommodate our wishes. And speaking of Oscar Wilde…

Here is an email I share with y'all - with permission:

Laura hon, the book I was talking about was "The Soul Of Man & Prison Writings," published in paperback by Oxford Univ. Press, part of their "Oxford's World Classics" series. Although released only in 1998, it's apparently already out of print: They weren't offering it on their own website (

"The Soul Of Man" (AKA "The Soul Of Man Under Socialism") is a brilliant essay about society, social justice, art, personal freedom -- terribly contemporary in thought and tone, tho written in 1891, about 4 years before he was locked up. Maybe that's why there's also a strong strain of humor in it: "In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press." "It is only fair to state, with regard to modern journalists, that they always apologize to one in private for what they have written against one in public."

Zingers like that contribute to this distorted notion of Wilde as the Victorian Noel Coward, but nothing could be further from the truth. As a writer, the man was incapable of superficiality. And he was also one of the most thoughtful and profound writers of his era, as the above essay demonstrates and "De Profundis" drives home.

Everything else in this collection was written either in jail or afterwards; in fact, it contains all the post-prison writing he'd produce. "De Profundis" is a letter to Bosie Douglas, who'd been Wilde's boyfriend and dragged Oscar into the confrontation with the Marquess of Queensbury that resulted in Wilde's downfall. Writing a very long letter to Bosie from his prison cell, Wilde touches on aspects of suffering that always resonated for me with the JT books. Oscar would have recognized your truthfulness as a writer: "Behind Joy and Laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous. But behind Sorrow there is always Sorrow. Pain, unlike Pleasure, wears no mask." Tell me that this passage about prison life isn't him also writing about how you wrote and organized THE HEART: "To me it seems to have occurred, I will not say yesterday, but today. Suffering is one long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain."

What also raises the spectre of JT are the two letters he wrote to the Daily Chronicle about prison conditions, after his release from prison -- especially the first letter which discusses the treatment of children in prison. And this collection includes his last and maybe his greatest poem, "The Ballad Of Reading Gaol." The book also has smart and detailed notes, very helpful, for all the stuff. 


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