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Wilde in America: Oscar Wilde and the Invention of Modern Celebrity


David M. Friedman’s lively and often hilarious narrative whisks us across nineteenth-century America, from the mansions of Gilded Age Manhattan to roller-skating rinks in Indiana, from an opium den in San Francisco to the bottom of the Matchless silver mine in Colorado―then the richest on earth―where Wilde dined with twelve gobsmacked miners, later describing their feast to his friends in London as “First course: whiskey. Second course: whiskey. Third course: whiskey.”

But, as Friedman shows, Wilde was no mere clown; he was a strategist. From his antics in London to his manipulation of the media―Wilde gave 100 interviews in America (including Newport), more than anyone else in the world in 1882―he designed every move to increase his renown. There had been famous people before him, but Wilde was the first to become famous for being famous. Wilde in America is an enchanting tale of travel and transformation, comedy and capitalism―an unforgettable story that teaches us about our present as well as our past.

By David M Friedman, Published by Norton, 2014, 320 pages, hardcover.