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on 21 February 2016
Penguin Classics are the Best Oscar Wilde writes Beautiful Prose xx
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on 13 April 2016
Good product as expected
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on 11 August 2015
I've never been much of a fan of any of the output of the Aesthetic Movement ("Art for Art's Sake"). Too much of it seems to me to be contrived or forced, verbose, or over-ornate. I much prefer the likes of Kipling (who himself didn't think much of the literary arm of the Aesthetic Movement, it seems). Inevitably, I've read Dorian Grey and, although I wouldn't go wild (pun not intended!) about it myself, I can see why it is generally so highly rated. I used to work for Penguin, and picked up my copy of this book in one of their charity book sales (well, why not?). Obviously, I didn't have huge expectations of it, but I found it surprisingly good. Some of the stories are, as you might expect, rather silly & supercilious, such as The Remarkable Rocket, whilst others are very good indeed; the 6 "Poems In Prose" at the end, particularly.

I think Brownbear is being just a little harsh on this; ultimately, Wilde wasn't an author of fiction, but a playwright, which is a very different medium. Aside from this complete collection, there is only Dorian Grey as a novel, as compared with the 4 hugely successful Society Comedies. I teeter between 4 & 5* for this, myself. Given the presence of more than one story like the Rocket, though, I fall just, but only just, on the lower side. If you are a fan of Wilde anyway, you will love this, if you can't stand him, you won't. But if you fall somewhere in between, you might, as I did, find this well worth the time.
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on 18 October 2000
I loved this book, so much of Wilde's passion for beautiful people and surroundings is seen through these short stories. Sharp observations of social hierarchies, their hypocrisy and the welfare of the underprivileged is subtle and effective. But this is not conveyed as a harsh tirade or dry rhetoric, these messages are brought out in stories which the fairy-tale side of the imagination glories in. The Birthday of the Infanta and The Happy Prince are my favourites of all the stories contained in this book, which cut most deeply.
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on 28 July 2010
Short stories written as Wilde tries to become a paid writer, it's a bit like hearing the Beatles' Cavern tapes; there is a touch of something here but not yet at the top of the game. Some great one-liners and throwaway ideas but only the Happy Prince can be said to be a Masterpiece.

The Happy Prince is a story I have read many times to my children and which still makes me blub at the end - an absolute classic. The rest are an artist trying to find a voice and whilst it's all good writing, and individual phrases and ideas quite striking, much of it doesn't quite come off. I found myself agreeing with the contemporary rejection slip quoted in the introduction that this is good and respectable, pretty and bright but lacking imaginative brilliance. Of course, it's easier looking back to see the signs of what was to come but these stories are patchy.

The tales are a peculiar mixture of fairy and ghost stories, literary detection, comedies and half poems. There are morality tales as well as straightforward episodes and this potpourri detracts from any feeling of a unified body of work, which of course is right. They are assembled from pieces Wilde managed to get published in various magazines and represent his experimentation to find a commercial formula. One of the interesting things are various jokes and observations his characters make that get recycled into his later more successful works. Stock characters such as Lady Windermere first make an appearance here.

Ian Small in his introduction points out that many of the stories are traditional in format but have a reversal of the expected ending or are in other ways subversive and that there may be sub texts that follow Wilde's own social, sexual and religious beliefs. It's difficult to say whether Wilde introduced such themes deliberately and subversively, subconsciously - because how he felt inevitably came out in his writing - or commercially, since to sell a story it must contain something new and provoking; maybe a bit of all three.

They are certainly no hardship to read and I jotted down quite a lot of good one-line ideas and juxtapositions for future use. The best reason to read these stories is see close up a part of one author's journey from good to greatness.
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