Oscar Wilde Discovers America
By Louis Edwards
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9780743236898, 304pp.)
Publication Date: January 28, 2003
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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In January 1882, Oscar Wilde arrived in New York to begin a nationwide publicity tour. Mentioned in a few newspaper articles -- but barely a footnote in the history books -- was the black valet who accompanied him. In a daring and richly imaginative work, Louis Edwards rescues this figure from obscurity, blurring the line between fact and fiction as he follows Wilde and his gifted confidant, Traquair, on a whirlwind tour across the country, from high-society Newport to art-conscious San Francisco to the Deep South.
Edwards's brilliantly conjured Wilde astounds the New World with his eloquent lectures and larger-than-life presence, while Traquair delights in the greatest year of his youth: losing his virginity in a Washington, D. C., brothel; meeting Jefferson Davis in Mississippi; falling hopelessly in love in St. Louis; and learning about his own family's secret history. Juxtaposed with Traquair's experiences are those of his Caucasian best friend, Baxter, who travels to England and becomes enmeshed in a circle of luminaries including Lady Wilde, James Whistler, Lillie Langtry, and Wilde's future wife, Constance Lloyd.
Combining seductive, epigrammatic language and a unique perspective on class and race in late-nineteenth-century America, Oscar Wilde Discovers America builds to a surprising climax that offers a chilling forecast of the tragic destiny of Wilde and a stunning redefinition of the American spirit.
Louis Edwards, the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Whiting Writers' Award, grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He is the author of two previous novels, Ten Seconds and N, and lives in New Orleans.
Kirkus Reviews (starred) One of the best road tours in American history...tremendous fun: a marvelous story animated with just the right savvy, melodrama, wit, and fantasy.