I have been reading a lot of biographies lately, mostly of Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas.  They have left me wondering if “that which is the man” can ever be captured in a biography.

In life you never experience a person the way you do in a biography.  You never get an overview of a whole life– the same person in his context as a worker, a family man, a lover, a friend, a debtor, in all of his moods: when he is up, when he is down.  You have impressions of people.  You know parts of them.  A biographer tries to harmonize all of the impressions he or she can collect from people who caught these glimpses, who knew the person in part.

Who has the truth? Is the opinion of a person who dislikes you, colored by the memory of a bad experience less “true” than the memory of the person who was delighted by you? Is the truth the middle ground of these two poles or are you actually both things at the same time– a thoughtless person and a thoughtful person, depending on the context?

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IT was a sad if not an altogether broken young man who came to live in London after Wilde’s death. He could not yet realize that people, and particularly people in what was still called Society, had an uneasy conscience about their treatment of his friend and would fasten on him as a convenient scapegoat. We did not kill the man’s genius, they said in effect, we did not encourage a conspiracy to imprison him by means of a preposterous law, we are not to blame for his barren last years and early death; it was all the fault of this young man who bewitched him into a disastrous attack on his father, who is still free, rich, handsome, as we are not.
-Rupert Croft-Cooke, Bosie: Lord Alfred Douglas, His Friends and Enemies

IT was a sad if not an altogether broken young man who came to live in London after Wilde’s death. He could not yet realize that people, and particularly people in what was still called Society, had an uneasy conscience about their treatment of his friend and would fasten on him as a convenient scapegoat. We did not kill the man’s genius, they said in effect, we did not encourage a conspiracy to imprison him by means of a preposterous law, we are not to blame for his barren last years and early death; it was all the fault of this young man who bewitched him into a disastrous attack on his father, who is still free, rich, handsome, as we are not.

-Rupert Croft-Cooke, Bosie: Lord Alfred Douglas, His Friends and Enemies


(Source: yourearrangeme)

"A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words."

— Orhan Pamuk (via pavorst)

(via wordpainting)

People always describe the relationship between Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas as a “destructive love affair.”  The implication is that the love affair itself was at fault.  That it was Wilde’s weakness for his young lover, an obsession, that led him into this snare.  I don’t believe this is a fair way of looking at things.

It is certainly possible to believe that Bosie was not a good match for Wilde and that he could have done much better for himself.  They fought and broke up and came back together time and time again, but many couples relate this way.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Wilde to say, “Your father is making my life hell and this relationship is not worth it.”  He wasn’t willing to do that.  Through all sorts of external pressure and private conflicts of their own, they were determined to stick together.  With Oscar Wilde and Bosie Douglas we call this destructive obsession.  Yet in a straight couple wouldn’t we call it something else?  Wouldn’t we call that commitment?

"When I write poetry, I’ll write it down, or a tiny bit of it, and then have to depend on the reader to bring his own feelings, moods and memories to the act of reading poetry. And this act is considerable art in itself. To read poetry or literature with attention is a marvelous thing to be able to do— to respond, to live and be moved by this subtle world you’ve created about you."

— William Anderson, poet

"People who want to censor books aren’t really censoring books; they are censoring people.. The censor is trying to predict the reaction of a potential reader to a book. But we have found that you just can’t predict that."

— Gordon A. Sabine, journalism professor

"For me, writing isn’t an occupation, but a duty. I write as much to understand as to be understood."

— Elie Wiesel, author

"

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save

Yet all is well; he has but passed
To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.

"

— Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

"You are subjecting yourself to tough things as a writer. It erodes a person. That’s why the casualty rate is so high. You fear the exhaustion of your reserve, the collapse of your ambition, involuntary retirement by your readers. The psychic drain is enormous."

— Leon Uris, author

"…I believe that a writer has an adversary relationship with his publisher… If someone has applied himself to an art for 15 or 20 years and they’ve gotten good at it, and they’re expected to do something else to support themselves while the industry that sells this craft supports itself very well, something is badly wrong. Morally wrong."

— John Irving, author