Title: Wilde in America
Author: David M. Friedman
Page Count/Review Word Count: 322
Disclaimer: While I aim to be unbiased, I received a copy of this for free to review
Okay, I’ll admit that at first I was worried that this was going to be a difficult read – how could it not be, with a title like ‘Wilde in America: Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity‘? But I needn’t have worried – this turned out to be an awesome read, hence the high rating.
The book effectively follows Wilde’s travels across America, where he arrived as a nobody and left as an international superstar, in a journey which the author compares to people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who’ve become famous just for being famous, by manipulating the media and being seen as leading socialites.
After all, when Wilde landed in America, he’d sold less than 500 copies of his first (self-published) book of poetry, and while he had been a mover and a shaker in London’s burgeoning social scene, he wasn’t exactly famous. Friedman’s insightful book traces the journey that Wilde made, showcasing along the way what exactly it was that he did and why it worked so much.
It does touch upon the tragic circumstances of Wilde’s eventual fall from grace right at the end, but this is more a celebration of the living Wilde than a celebration of his memory. In some ways, it’s almost like a biography, even though it doesn’t focus on the whole of his life – it’s just that Friedman manages to capture Wilde’s personality so perfectly that you feel like you know him by the end of the book.
He also doesn’t believe Wilde’s hype, despite the fact that he’s clearly an admirer of his work, and that helps the reader to build up a clearer picture of what Oscar was actually like – a shrewd marketeer.