There have been Oscar Wilde bars before now: in Berlin, San Diego, Chicago, and, I seem to recall, one previously in New York City.There is a Wilde Café in Minneapolis,and a bar called Oscar Wilde 9 located, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, at #9 Oscar Wilde St. in Mexico City.
Most of these pretenders, however, merely give a nod to the old boy by borrowing his name. One or two, such as Wilde’s Restaurantin The Lodge at Ashford Castle, in Cong, Ireland, and the Oscar Wilde room at the Café Royal in Piccadilly, London, try a little harder to embody Oscar’s maxim that moderation is a fatal thing, and nothing succeeds like excess.
Raising The Bar
But believe me, none of them, past or present, comes remotely close to the lavishness to be found at the newOscar Wilde Bar in New York City.
As one artistic passerby was heard to exclaim when poking his head through the door, “Minimalism is dead!” And that was when the place was only half finished during the renovations.
Now that it is finished it was time to attend the press reception.
If Oscar Wilde really did live in terror of not being misunderstood—as he wrote inThe Critic as Artist in1891—then he need not have worried, at least not so far as his plays are concerned. That is because parts of the original texts are now so arcane that they are almost bound to be misunderstood, if they are understood at all.
Take Wilde’s most famous play The Importance of Being Earnest, which many say, quite rightly, is still relevant. Of course, it is, in everything from human shallowness to the fact that sugar is no longer fashionable.
But we should not allow the richness of the text to conceal the many dated references and topical allusions in it, which had a contemporary, often esoteric, relevance at the time Wilde wrote them, but which are now elusive—especially for young or non-British audiences.
When it comes to measuring time, sixty is an oddly benign number. It records the seconds into minutes and the minutes into hours indistinguishably. But when the number is used to mark the passage of years—three score can give one quite a jolt. So when the occasion crept up on me last week, I was need of rejuvenation.
An outing to the theatre would be the tonic I thought. But with the next Wilde play not until later in the month, I would need to find another balm for my (now) furrowed brow.
What then if not Oscar? Perhaps something pre-Oscar…
Literary Metaphor at the Oscar Wilde Festival in Galway.
Focused though I am on Oscar Wilde In America, I like to keep an eye on the bigger picture. However, I know that to see the brushstrokes up close it is sometimes necessary to depart from topical and geographical constraints and visit the works themselves.
So last weekend I attended the Oscar Wilde Festival in Galway, Ireland, where I discovered part of the canvas rendered in two books with contrasting techniques.
Review of the conference: Who Owns The Legacy of Oscar Wilde?
Wilde Conference at Drew University, June 1-2, 2012
A REVIEW by John Cooper
So it was to Drew University (Madison, NJ) hopeful of enlightenment as to the nominal question posed by the conference.
To the question of who owns the legacy of an author in the public domain the answer is usually nobody. However, this conference was a reminder, should it be needed, that in the sphere of Wilde studies nobody often translates into anybody willing to marry the subject, for better or worse, to their own vision of Wilde. This is not surprising given Wilde’s dualities of nationality, gender and style, and over the years writers have enjoyed an open season and taken careful aim at their subject, giving us some quite specific visions of Oscar.
At least in a forum such as the subject becomes a moving target. So we had varied questions, not only of the Irish Wilde and the gay Wilde, as might be expected, but also an array of topics ranging from thesis to the practical; subjects from Wilde’s reputation as a classicist to the ownership of his work and imagery.