Where to Start With Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde has a very special place in history, one all of his own. The man known for his acerbic wit and most quotable quotes is well known as having written some of the funniest and most clever work of his time. But so often time is not a friend to authors and books, the nuances and style of language at the time of writing can vary wildly and make it hard for new readers to get a good start on a book or author.
While it is quite true that WIlde only wrote one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, he wrote a multitude of short stories and an abundance of poetry and plays.
My humble suggestion would be to start with the lighthearted The Importance of Being Earnest. It is a fantastic play that showcases Wildes characteristic wit, and has the added bonus of being in play format which is easy to follow and not overly long. Download or read a copy from Project Gutenberg Here.
If the 21,000 word play is still a bit daunting, try The Canterville Ghost which comes in at just under 11,500 words, which was his first short story to be published and remains one of his most popular short stories since its first appearance in 1887.
No matter where you start with Oscar Wilde, you will invariably move onto what has probably become his most famous and certainly his most notorious work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Adapted time and time again into plays, musicals, movies, tv shows even cartoons, The Picture of Dorian Gray was said to be the novel that that broke the camels back and ending up getting Wilde sent to gaol for grave indecency. The book was said to be unclean, effeminate and a contaminating influence on society, what it actually was, was a work of classic gothic fiction.
After you finish Dorian Gray, search around for his other many works, but be sure to include The Ballad of Reading Gaol, written after Wilde was released from Reading gaol and exiled himself to France. It is most famous for including the oft quoted lines
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
A passage from the Ballad of Reading Gaol was chosen as Wilde’s epitaph, engraved on his headstone, and seems a fitting end for this piece.
And alien tears will fill for him,
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.