THE GOD OF MIRRORS by Robert Reilly
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Here's the perfect introduction to the legendary Oscar Wilde: a fictional narrative of his dramatic rise and fall that sticks closely to the historical record. First-novelist Reilly, thoughnot always adept at weaving in biographical details, remains properly unobtrusive throughout this inherently compelling tale. When Reilly picks up the dazzling wit's story, soon after his marriage to the relatively dull Constance Lloyd, Wilde's life and art (which he always considered interchangeable) had already brought him much fame and fortune. His halcyon days as a London fop appear at first to bear out his well-known maxim, ""nothing succeeds like excess."" Dandies flock to his side, many of whom share with him ""the love that dare not speak its name."" One in particular, Lord Alfred Douglas, the sybaritic son of the Marquess of Queensberry, eventually brings about Wilde's tragic downfall. The petulant and parasitic ""Bosie,"" as Douglas was known to his friends, encourages Wilde to press his libel suit against the pugnacious Marquess, who's had no problem gathering evidence of Wilde's sexual habits. Before the humiliating trials begin, complete with lurid testimony from the rough trade Wilde and Bosie often entertained, Wilde's greatest literary works continue to find wide audiences. But the scandalous affair, once proven in court, not only shuts downfall his very successful plays, it also results in a two-year jail tenn. Ostracized by all but a loyal few, Wilde lives out his pathetic end in Italy and France, abandoned by the cruel Douglas, who's now flush with his dead father's legacy. From the wonderfully decadent days of fin de si‚cle England to the penurious years of personal ignominy, Wilde, in Reilly's wholly sympathetic view, is always more sinned against than sinning, a kind and generous accomplice to his own demise. Peopled with Wilde's rivals at repartee (from GBS to Frank Harris), Reilly's charming historical diversion includes many of Wilde's choice aphorisms and epigrams as well as much imaginary dialogue, quite plausibly rendered. This is popularization at its best; never offensive to serious students of Wilde and his milieu, it might even make some new ones.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1985
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown