Now that I have seen my life turn completely in its fiery circle, I must look upon my past with different eyes."" So writes the Oscar Wilde of this fictional memoir/diary--living as an exile in 1900 Paris, in illness and decadence (giving himself ""to the companionship of drink and boys""), using the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth: ""I thought of other possibilities--but Innocent XI and Oedipus were somewhat too dramatic."" Wilde ponders his fate--""I longed for fame and was destroyed by it."" He tells a few fables that parallel his own situation, laments his separation from his children. But primarily, in short chronological chapters, he reviews his life: from childhood in Ireland (learning of his illegitimacy) to studies at Oxford with Ruskin and Pater (""it was through his eyes that I first saw myself as an artist""); his first London notoriety as an aesthete (""where Pater had murmured and Ruskin had denounced, I would surprise""); American tours and literary prestige; to Paris for glimpses of vice and Flaubert's chat (""one might have been listening to the conversation of a pork butcher""); marriage, superficial successes, first experiences of ""Greek love"" (more voyeuristic than sodomistic); and then ""the one really foolish action of my life""--the lawsuit that brought Wilde himself to trial, to prison, to exile. British writer Ackroyd gives his wistful hero a persuasive, polished voice: epigrammatic, of course, even if the one-liners sometimes sound more like Quentin Crisp than Oscar Wilde. And though most of Wilde's repetitious final thoughts are wanly predictable (the woes of fame-seeking, the virtues of homosexuality), there are occasional asides that suggest a revisionist, post-Freudian sensibility at work. Finally, however, Ackroyd's stylish, sympathetic work-up doesn't vividly transform (or dramatize) the familiar Wilde story--and the upshot is an erudite, accomplished, yet oddly pointless impersonation.