Saturday, September 5, 2009

My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd

My hero: Oscar Wilde

By Michael Holroyd
The Guardian, Saturday 5 September 2009


Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish writer, in holidays
Hand-coloured photograph of Wilde circa 1890. Photograph: Roger Viollet/Getty Images
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, fictionand 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.






2009
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 raser
006 My hero / Ted Hughes by Michael Morpurgo

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 Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010
036 My hero / Rober Lowell by Jonathan Raban (Kiss)

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 Annie Proulx by Alan Warner


041 My hero / David Linch by Paul Murray

042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford (Kiss)
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal


2011
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
095 My hero / Les Murray by Daljit Nagra (Kiss)
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
100 My hero / Tomas Tranströmer  (Kiss)

2012
120 My hero / Graham Greene by Richard Holloway
134 My hero / Homer by Madeline Miller
146 My hero / Roald Dahl by Michael Rosen

2013
167 My hero / Oliver Sacks by Hilary Mantel
169 My hero / Jean Rhys by Linda Grant
176 My hero / Mae West by Kathy Lette
181 My hero / Lydia Davis by Ali Smith
184 My hero / Louise Bourgeois by Tracey Emin
185 My hero / Albert Camus by David Constantine
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2014
211 My hero / Mavis Gallant by Jhumpa Lahiri and Michael Ondaatje
227 My hero / Salman Rushdie by Antonia Fraser
233 My hero / Robin Williams by Anne Fine



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