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David M. Friedman: Wilde in America

David M. Friedman: Wilde in America

Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity. USA 2014, 304 pp. illustrated, hardcover,  29.99
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W. W. Norton
In 1882, Oscar Wilde, a 27-year-old genius at least by his own reckoning arrived in New York. The young gay man had made such a spectacle of himself in London with his eccentric fashion sense, acerbic wit, and extravagant passion for art and home design that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote an operetta lampooning him. He was hired to go to America to promote that work by presenting lectures on interior decorating. But Wilde had his own business plan. He would go to promote himself. And he did, visiting 150 American cities as he created a template for fame creation that still works today. Though Wilde was only the author of a self-published book of poems and an unproduced play, he presented himself as a star. What Wilde so presciently understood is that fame could launch a career as well as cap one.
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