localfreak: avatar which I have used as mine since scarboard days 10 years ago (Default)
[personal profile] localfreak
I have just finished reading Robbie Ross: Oscar Wilde's True Love by Jonathan Fryer

I have long wanted to read a biography of Robbie Ross, whose name crops up in tales of so many other notable peoples' lives (not just Wilde but Beardsley, Sassoon, Gide, Graves and so on). My copy of this book- identical an all other ways- has the sub-heading "Oscar Wilde's True Love" although I think that which is listed here- devoted friend- convery the meaning in a much better way.

The prose is engaging and light enough to not be over-weighted by facts and figures which so often biographies can turn into. I did find some of the suppositions that went without footnotes or any reference to back up statements of how Ross felt at one point or another (and also the diagnoses of Bosie- not to say he hadn't inherited his father's mental instability but to definitely say 'schizophrenic' without any sort of reference was a bit hard going) to be slightly short of my hopes and the author does slip occasionally into that most difficult of biases for anyone writing within the sphere of Oscar Wilde- to tell more of the story of Wilde than of the intended subject, but he reeled it in admirably after a couple of chapters- and it is a trap from which many authors fall into and never get out of at all.

Overall a very easy to read and interesting overview, although occasionally it seemed to lack the depth of its detail or, to borrow a term, failed to 'show its working'. Very much worth the read

The only major thing to mar my enjoyment of it actually was that just after I bought it I read a review on goodreads where someone wrote:

"I'm sorry, but it's inexcusable that three pages from the end, we got such a blatant misprint as "It is true that [Ross] outlived Oscar by three years...." Try eighteen? "

And I was all OH NO THAT'S DIRE so spent my whole time reading thinking 'any minute now...the clanger...stupid misprint...' and then I read the paragraph in question:

"...on 5 October 1918 Robbie returned home from a long lunch with friends. He complained to Nellie Burton of chest pains, suspecting indigestion. She helped him up to his bedroom to have a lie-down, but when she returned to wake him to dress for dinner, she discovered that he was dead. He was aged just forty-nine. It is true that he had outlived Oscar by three years, but like Wilde, he was old before his time."- pg 258

Oscar Wilde died in 1900 aged forty-six. So it wasn't a clanger at all the reviewer had misunderstood. It is easily done I suppose but now I'm just left feeling like I'm really the type of person who should not read reviews of books until I've read the books themselves- every time there's a bad one, or a review mentions a foible, I then spend half the book with my eye out for whatever annoyed the other reviewer so. It's not good.

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localfreak

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