Saturday, September 5, 2009

My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd

My hero: 

Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd 

The Guardian, Saturday 5 September 2009

Hand-coloured photograph of Wilde circa 1890. Photograph: Roger Viollet

I first came to Oscar Wilde through reading his Life by Hesketh Pearson. This enthralling biography was first published in 1946, and I read it a few years later when I was in my early teens. It was less the tragedy of Wilde's last years that gripped me than the wit and humanity of the man, his generosity of spirit and radical ideas. 

I lived most of my early years with my grandparents. The atmosphere was one of eccentric conventionality. Wilde's startling paradoxes ("Work is the curse of the drinking classes") turned upside down the unthinking clichés I used to hear. The man who claimed that "a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at" changed my view of the world. Wilde made me laugh, made me think and revealed to me the seriousness of imaginative humour. 

What I came to value was the charming way he arrived at deeply unpopular opinions. He upset much of what I had been encouraged to take for granted. I found myself warming to his revolutionary assault on the dictatorship of a political democracy which depended on that "monstrous and ignorant thing called Public Opinion". He was an extraordinarily brave writer. "One is absolutely sickened," he wrote in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, "not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." I think of that whenever I hear the phrase "brought to justice" glibly used in the media. 

Wilde's epigrams and ideas float through all his work – his plays, fiction and essays. "Every great man has his disciples and it is always Judas who writes the biography," he said. And perhaps that was no bad thing while a Damocles sword of respectability hung, as Carlyle complained, over the poor English life-writer. Perhaps, too, Wilde had a more lasting influence on me than I realised. "To arrive at what one really believes," he wrote in The Critic as Artist, "one must speak through lips different from one's own." This is no less true for a biographer than for a playwright. 


001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
054 My hero / Michael de Montaigne by Liyun Li
055 My hero / Michael Donaghy by Maggie O'Farrell
056 My hero / Richmal Crompton by Louise Crompton
057 My hero / Edward Thomas by David Constantine
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal
059 My hero / Sefton by Jilly Cooper

060 My hero / Kate Bush by David Michell
061 My hero / Irom Chanu Sharmila by Kishwar Desai
062 My hero / John Gross by Victoria Glendinning
063 My hero / Constance Garnett by Edna O'Brien
064 My hero / The BBC World Service by Jeremy Paxman
065 My hero / Friedrich Nietzsche by Geoff Dyer
066 My hero / John Titchell RA by Tim Binding
067 My hero / Fast Waller by Michael Longley
068 My hero / Alfred Russell Wallace by Tim Flannery
069 My hero / Ivan Turgenev by Hisham Matar
070 My hero / Michael Jordan by Benjamin Markovitz

071 My hero / Ernest Lubitsch by Adam Thirlwell
072 My hero / Simone Veil by Mary Darrieussecq
073 My hero / John le Carré by Carlos Ruiz Safón
074 My hero / Janusz Korczak by Eva Hoffman
075 My hero / George Eliot by Lisa Appignanesi
076 My hero / John Cooke by Geoffrey Robertson
077 My hero / Aung San by Aung San Suu Kyi
078 My hero / Charles James Fox by Stella Tillyard
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
080 My hero / Bertold Brecht Michael Hoffmann

081 My hero / Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain by Tahmima Anam
082 My hero / Emily Dickinson by Helen Oyeyemi
082 My hero / Stefan Obreht by Téa Obreht
084 My heros / John Berger, Gordon Banks and Sean McCann by Colum Mc Cann
085 My hero / Tony Benn by Jad Adams
086 Martina Navratilova by Patrick Ness
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
088 Stanley Kubrick by Tom Rob Smith
089 Björk by Joe Dunthorne
090 James Joyce by Carol Birch

091 Paul Klee by Philip Hensher
092 John Boyd Orr by Alasdair Gray
093 Edmund Penning-Rowsell by Jancis Robinson
094 Amos Almond by David Almond
095 My hero / Les Murray by Daljit Nagra
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 My hero / Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
098 Joan Maynard by Chris Mullin
099 Flann O'Brien by Ian Sansom
100 My hero / Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson

101 My hero / Maureen Kelman by Stephen Kelman
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill
103 My hero / KM Peyton by Meg Rosoff
104 My hero / Ernest Shaskleton by Anthony Horowitz
105 My hero / Alan Turing by Alan Garner
106 My hero / Audre Lorde by Jackie Kay
107 My hero / WG Hoskins by Penelope Lively
108 My hero / Primo Levi by Siddartha Mukherjee
109 My hero / Christopher Logue by Craig Raine
110 My hero / Russell Hoban by Will Self
111 My hero / Arnold Lobell by Julia Donaldson
112 My hero / Peter Scott by Louisa Yong

113 My hero / Ronald Searle by Quentin Blake
114 My hero / Patrick Hamilton by Eoin Colfer
115 My hero / Evariste Galois by Andrew Miller
115 My hero / Nadime Gordimer by Tessa Hadley
117 My hero / Charles Dickens by Simon Callow
118 My hero / Jarvis Cooker by Jon McGregor
119 My hero / Michael Ondaatje by Teju Cole 

121 My hero / Thomas Paine by Sue Townsend
122 My hero / Raphael Lemkin by AL Kennedy
123 My hero / Armistead Maupin by Patrick Gale
124 My hero / Stephen Haff by Peter Carey
125 My hero / Sigmund Freud by John Gray
126 My hero / Adrienne Rich by Ensler
127 My hero / John Keats by Andrew Motin (Kiss)
128 My hero / George Eliot by Cynthia Ozick
129 My hero / Walter Benjamin by Elif Shafak
130 My hero / Edward St Aubyn by Ann Patchett

131 My hero / Maurice Sendak by Neil Gaiman
132 My hero / Carlos Fuentes by Alberto Manguel and Liz Calder
133 My hero / Dag Hammarskjöld by Timothy Mo
134 My hero / Homer by Madeline Miller
135 My hero / Robert Louis Stevenson by Ian Rankin
136 My hero / Yannis Ritsos by David Harsent
137 My hero / Thomas Merton by Nicole Barker
138 My hero / Nora Ephron by Elaine Showalter
139 My hero / Mandy Colleran by Jake Arnott
140 My hero /

141 My hero /
142 My hero /
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144 My hero /
145 My hero /
146 My hero / Roald Dahl by Michael Rosen

156 My hero / Barack Obama by Lorrie Moore
160 My hero / Charles Baudelaire by Roberto Calasso

161 My hero /
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3 January 2013 162 My hero: Dennis O'Driscoll by Seamus Heaney
11 January 2013 163 My hero: Caitlin Moran by Annabel Pitcher
18 January 2013 164 My hero: George Orwell by Margaret Atwood
25 January 2013 165 My hero / Robert Burns by Liz Lockhead
1 Feb 2013 166 My hero / William Cowper by Alexandra Harris

167 My hero / Oliver Sacks by Hilary Mantel
168 My hero / Agatha Christie by Sophia Hanah

170 My hero / Betty Friedan by Lionel Shriver
171 William Cobbett by Richard Ingrams
172 Noam Chomsky by Charles Glass
173 My hero / Philip Roth by James Wood
174 My hero / Alice Munro by Nell Freudenberger
175 Maurice Druon by George RR Martin
176 My hero / Mae West by Kathy Lette
177 Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum
178 Félix Nadar by Richard Holmes

180 Ellsworth Kelly by AM Homes

My hero: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz by Lee Smolin

181 My hero / Lydia Davis by Ali Smith
182 My hero: Emily Wilding Davison by Val McDermid
183 My hero / Judith Kerr by Michael Rosen
184 My hero / Louise Bourgeois by Tracey Emin
185 My hero / Albert Camus by David Constantine
186 My hero / Andy Murray by Geoff Dyer
187 My hero / Roddy Doyle by Kerry Hudson
188 My hero / Bradley Manny by Chase Madar
189 My hero: Rudy Hartono by Tash Aw
190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson

191 My hero: Elmore Leonard by Philip Hensher
192 My hero: Nora Ephron by Gill Hornby
193 My hero / Gordon Burn by David Peace
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
195 My hero: Wilkie Collins by Andrew Lycett
196 My hero: Kofi Awoonor by Nii Parkes
197 My hero Fanny Trollope by Lucy Ellmann
198 My hero / Asterix by Tom Holland
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer
200 My hero: Giacomo Matteotti by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

201 My hero / John Tavener by Steven Isserlis
202 My hero / CS Lewis by Laura Miller and Aldoux Huxley and Nicholas Murray
203 My hero / Doris Lessing by Margaret Drabble
204 My hero / Mr Badger by Patrick Barkham
205 My hero / John "Araucaria" Graham by Sandy Balfour

206 My hero / Sir John Tenniel by Chris Riddell
207 My hero / Martha Gellhorn by Sinéad Morrissey
208 My heroes / Huey, Dewey and Louie by Jeff Kinney
209 My hero / Karl Ove Knausgaard by Jonathan Lethem
210 My hero / Malala Yousafzai by Nathan Filer 

213 My hero / Dennis the Menace by Steven Butler

234 My hero / Kate Bush by Jeanette Winterson
235 My hero / Robert Burns by Alex Salmond
236 My hero / Helen Bamber by Helena Kennedy
237 My hero / Alison Bechdel by Elizabeth McCracken
238 My hero / Karl Miller by Blake Morrinson
239 My hero / Robin Cook by John Kampfner

242 My hero / Walter Potter by Kate Mosse
243 My hero / Robert Wyatt by Jonathan Coe
244 My hero / Jim Shepard by Joshua Ferris
245 My hero / Geoffrey Chaucer by Lavinie Greenlan
246 My hero / P.D. James by Val McDermid
247 My hero / Kevin Pietersen by Tom Holland

250 My hero John Bayley by Richard Eyre

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