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According to Oscar Wilde

 “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you.”

Wilde kept his Victorian contemporaries laughing with his delightful play The Importance of Being Earnest. But in the midst of the hilarity, Wilde slipped in social commentary about everything from theft and domestic service to alcohol consumption and marriage.

Some of my favorite lines revolve around the era’s most popular form of entertainment — the three-volume novel. Here is some of the play’s comical and cutting dialogue:

CECELY: I believe that memory is responsible for nearly all the three-volume novels…

MISS PRISM: Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel, Cecily. I wrote one myself in earlier days.

CECILY: Did you really, Miss Prism? How wonderfully clever you are! I hope it did not end happily. I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.

MISS PRISM: The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde debuted in London on February 14, 1895. The play is available free at Project Gutenberg.

Image“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)

October 16, 2013 marks the 159th anniversary of the birth of Irish author and legendary wit Oscar Wilde —  playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, and children’s book author.

Today, Wilde is most often cited for his pithy remarks, including:

  • There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. 
  • Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
  • I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.
  • Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.
  • A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. I have not got one who is a fool. They are all men of some intellectual power, and consequently they all appreciate me.
  • The aim of life is self-development. To realize one’s nature perfectly—that is what each of us is here for.
  • Only the shallow know themselves. 



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Credit: New Yorker cartoon by Donald Reilly

Editor’s Note: Writers will understand…

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“When you’re writing a book, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up. But it’s a very, very long, slow process.” ROALD DAHL, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, BFG, and Matilda

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JACK KEROUAC’S ADVICE TO WRITERS

Believe in the holy contour of life.

Photo: Tom Wolbers, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” FRANZ KAFKA

PHOTO: C. McSheridan, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED