Saturday, November 26, 2005

Beyond the obvious

Tonight I watched a movie that reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s plays. Indeed as I later found out by googling here and there, the movie was inspired by one of his plays “Lady Windermere’s Fan”. The Screenwriter chose to transpose the play to the 1930s. Yet the dialogues were so familiar, the wit was vintage Oscar Wilde, and the plot bore such an unmistakable imprint of him.

The world of yore to me is like a beautiful photograph in black and white. Charming people with an impeccable sense of dressing, and a grandiose manner of speaking. Nowhere is this typified better than in Wilde’s plays. The characters are so fictional, for how can a real person ever speak that way. There is a bit of Wilde in all the characters. As if he is the only one speaking and the people are merely moving their lips in synchronicity.

But even if you have a hundred Oscar Wilde’s talking to themselves it would still be so marvelously interesting. They would all have their own opinions, even contradictory opinions, and they would articulate it with such panache. Here is a quote that seems to have stuck in my mind. “A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.” What do you think of it? Ridiculous? Profound? Untrue? Whatever you think of it I am sure you find it perplexing and striking. I try to understand it, find a meaning in it and always miss his point.

But then the point is he is not trying to make a point! The drift of the play and the meaning of it are for you to derive. The reader will have to weed out all that fluff and witty distractions and think beyond the obvious. Sort of like life. Nobody can tell you it’s meaning. It’s for you to find out.

Let me try an Oscar Wilde-ish quip to describe this great man. “A true intellectual is one who doesn’t mean a word he says.” Or may be, “A true intellectual is one who means so much more than what he says”.


Bill said...

I'm afraid I am not to familiar with Oscar Wilde. His name rings a bell, but I can't recall any of his plays. Sounds like one of those classic geniouses tho.

angel, jr. said...

I have yet to read an Oscar Wilde play. But I heard they are great.

erikku said...

Nor am I well versed in the works of Oscar, but from your description of him he does indeed seem to fit among those great literary folks, like Bill says.

I personally like Thoreau the best.

Chloe said...

okay, here's my chance to sound deep and meaningful.
i have read most of what he has written but i studied english lit, so i had to. But even if i didn't know him, i'd have to invent him. Because his wit is only the surface. Underneath there's a deep understanding of human nature, and all his criticism comes from the point of view of the sinner. He never preaches.
Oh Wriju, I love Wilde.

Camphor said...

Man, I just read 'The Portrait of Dorian Gray'. A more tortured man I have never seen, and it is heartbreaking that his genius came at such a price to his person. It is tragic that he accepted his actions and person as sin for no more reason that society said so - and most of his writings revolve around that. He is one of those few authors that leave me huddled, wishing I had never read the book, never had to see what the world can do to a person of his promise.

On the other hand, something like the 'Importance of Being Earnest' is pure art. *sigh* But Wilde was an aesthtist.

Spider Girl said...

My favourite Oscar Wilde quote goes something like this: " I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train".

LolaGetz said...

Sounds like MY diary, Spider!

Loonie said...

May be I should read Oscar Wilde sometime..
By the way.."A true intellectual is one who means so much more than what he says"*nods in agreement.* the statement is oh so true..very true!

Wriju said...

He's a classic genius alright!

His wit is very endearing, and some of his plays are totally hilarious. I can assure you they are a great read.

1.Thoreau is an American Writer.
2.He adheres to transcendentalism, something that originated in New England, and advocates idealism!
Now I know why you like him!

"Wit is only the surface"
I remember reading Ideal Husband, A Woman of No Importance, Salome, Each show his deep understanding of human nature.
I admire Wilde too. Now I am going to share notes with you on many writers and books ;-)

Portrait of Dorian Gray is one of my favorites too. It is such a strong metaphor - the rise of his status represented by his ever youthful handsome face and the death of his morality represented by his decaying portrait.

Importance of being Earnest though is very light hearted, almost like a PG Wodehouse!

Wriju said...

Spider Girl:
Let me add some more quotes:
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

This one is for Eric:
"America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up."

This one for Camphor:
"Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."

Like Bridget Jones' Diary eh? May be you should publish it then!

Dear Looonieeee:
The way you nod your head seems like you mean much more than you say ;-)

Camphor said...

"I really can't exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it."
"Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter."
"The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul."

(The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde)

I cannot forget those lines, considering they are the perfect expression of the reason I have burnt a good deal of what I have written. :)

Have you ever wondered WHY he never wrote another novel? That was probably the reason. The metaphor was too strong. But something like 'The Importance of Being Earnest' - it was light enough for it to not damage the writer in the writing. Less writer, more art, or at least that is what Wilde believed in... I think he says somewhere that while being autobiographical to an extent is unavoidable, there is no point in an autobiography.

More quotes:
"There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

"I have nothing to declare except my intelligence"

"There is no such thing as an immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written, that is all."

As to your reference to the surface and the symbol - I think he warns of the dangers in that somewhere too.


Congratulations, you just prodded me into going upstairs, getting that "Complete Works of Oscar Wilde" out and begin reading again.

Here we go again...

erikku said...

I assume that's a Thoreau quote, yes?

Here's one for you:

"Most are engaged in business the greater part of their lives, because the soul abhors a vacuum and they have not discovered any continuous employment for man's nobler faculties."

That's not Oscar, just Henry.^_^

Tell me no more of enchanted days said...

Heard abt u from Ari..oops oreen to u guys. thought i'll have a look at ur page. marmalade in 'tangerine trees and marmalade skies'? ...
don't know what else to say to a stranger..drop by..maybe..for words..

Wriju said...

I heard this at Vikram Seth's book reading "After I had written 'A Suitable Boy' I thought I would never write again as I had said all I had to say".
There is some truth to what you say. Sometimes when you have revealed your soul in it's entirity there is not much else to reveal.
But then he wrote some more and discovered there is more to himself than what he wrote.
Just as a painter finishes his painting and moves on to another.

Don't burn your writings, send them over ;-)

You have touched a very personal chord. I work hard because I don't know what else to do.

Tell me more:
Oreen!! Yeah I met him the day before :-)
Thanks for dropping by and I have already been to your blog!

Tell me no more of enchanted days said...

I'm sure that call must have echoed in the streets of Bangalore :P good to hear from u finally...
i'm pretty bad at starting conversations. maybe u can help. ok, let me give it a shot. Wriju? unusual name..meaning what?


Oreen said...

hey dear . . . my network problem got solved (just by restarting the machine) . . . and now i can post comments on your blog.

i remember i had to teach Oscar Wilde to a class as part of an interview. this was in Taki, a village on the border of Bangladesh. The class VIII students couldn't understand English, so I was reading out and translating each sentence for them. When I gave them the background of Oscar Wilde (fin de siecle and all that crap) the fat teachers at the back of the class were looking at each other . . .

maybe i should write about that experience someday . . . from riding a cycle van to dodging grazing cows on my way to the school . . . Taki Ramkrishna Mission . . .

no wonder I never got to hear from them again . . .

Wriju said...

Tell me:
Can I say that the answer to your question is very 'straightforward' :-) I pretty bad at conversation too, but with some people I have great conversation.
The reboot did it! Wonder if we can do that to you - reboot your system and make you functional, finally ;-)
Yes yes please do write about it. Your stories are most amazing.