To be honest, I’ve avoided a lot of classic stories because I normally find the older English writing styles inaccessible. For me, it’s hard to become engrossed in a story that is difficult to read. Especially when I have to pause and reread back a few pages.
Oscar Wilde has been a name that I’ve heard but never engaged with because I thought that his writing style would be difficult. I mean, he wrote “The Portrait of Mr. W.H.” in 1889. That’s 131 years ago. But I found little difficulty in reading his 73 page story.
The basic premise is about a man who becomes obsessed with an interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnets”. His obsession starts when a friend tells him that Shakespeare wrote his famous poems to a Willie Hughes.
Officially, Shakespeare never mentioned the name Hughes – but half the story is devoted to dissecting the prose. When I say half the story, I mean it. The amount of Shakespeare’s work is contained within Wilde’s story is ridiculous.
Although I know many people will not enjoy a “thinking book”, I felt engaged throughout the story. There is some wording that takes a little getting used to but I never felt that Wilde’s writing style separated me from story.
It’s interesting to me that the story was published 131 years ago. It’s essentially devoted to showing that Shakespeare’s poems had homosexual undertones – which is incredibly progressive. These days, no one would bat a lash at a suggestion like that.
Wilde, however, was sent to prison for two years for “gross indecency with men”.
The story isn’t brilliant or life changing, but I enjoyed reading it. Largely, I marveled at the audacity it would have taken to publish such at text in Wilde’s days. If you want to give Wilde a shot, 73 pages isn’t too much a commitment and I’ll give it a recommendation.