Tag: Oscar Wilde

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Posted September 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin MoranTitle: How to Build a Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Caitlin Moran
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Edelweiss

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Take to trip back to the 1990s, a time I am all too familiar with; the music was great but being a teenager was not all that it was cracked up to be. Johanna Morrigan is a fourteen year old who is unhappy with her life. That was until she decided to reinvent herself. By sixteen she was a sharp tongued goth, aspiring music journalist who went by the name Dolly Wilde (named after the socialite). How to Build a Girl is the debut novel by Caitlin Moran who is more popularly known for her views towards feminism in books like Moranthology and How to Be a Woman.

I will be honest; the only reason I picked up this book was because it was often described as The Bell Jar if it was written by Rizzo from Grease. I’m a fan of The Bell Jar and this was enough to get me curious about this novel. I can’t say I have ever been a fan of Caitlin Moran or her view points but I think her underlying message that no one should be judged for being who they are is something I can get behind.

Moran has made it clear that this is far from an autobiographical novel; her parents were never like Morrigan’s parents. However there is an element of this novel that probably reflects her teenage years. I think the teenage years are often a journey of self-discovery and reinvention and this was the main reason I wanted to read this novel.

It doesn’t matter if I agree with Johanna Morrigan’s choices and decisions; this was about her finding herself. The whole notion of self-discovery being similar to reinventing yourself is an interesting one and I enjoyed watching Dolly Wilde evolve into the person she wanted to be. Her parents and family often got in the way and tried to unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional) mould her personality. This was just an interesting journey to watch evolve.

I’m not going to talk about the feminist views within this book, it is not my place to agree or disagree. How to Build a Girl reminds me of the TV show Girls (or what I have seen of it) and if you are a fan of this show then maybe you will enjoy the novel. My biggest problem with the book was not with the feminist themes but with the writing itself; it never seemed to work for me and I felt like the intent was to shock rather than tell a good story. It is a shame, the premise is excellent and I could have enjoyed the book if more time was spent improving the proses and editing.

I wanted to love this book; the whole coming of age, self-discovery, and sexual awakening topic has always been an interesting one to me. This book started off with the best intentions but it lost its way, both in plot and writing. The rise and fall of Dolly Wilde (the character in this book, not Oscar Wilde’s niece) was worth reading but there is so much in the middle that could have been taken out and the novel would have ended up being less than a hundred pages. But these are my opinions; there are people that loved this book, I wasn’t one of them.


The Portrait of Mr. W.H. by Oscar Wilde

Posted February 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 0 Comments

The Portrait of Mr. W.H. by Oscar WildeTitle: The Portrait of Mr. W.H. (Goodreads)
Author: Oscar Wilde
Published: Hesperus Press, 1889
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The fact that William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are dedicated to one Mr W.H. has been the source of much speculation. Eighteenth century critic Thomas Tyrwhitt suggests that the sonnets are written for a person known as William Hughes. He bases this theory on his interpretation of the Sonnets, lines like “A man in hue, all Hues in his controlling” (the 20th sonnet) where the word ‘Hue’ is capitalised and italicised and the multiple puns on the name ‘Will’ found in the sonnets.

The Portrait of Mr. W.H. is a short story by Oscar Wilde; it only took me about twenty minutes so I don’t think I’ll say much about it but it was a story I wanted to review. Yes, it was required reading for university but it was an interesting enough piece that getting my thoughts down seemed like a good idea. I remember reading The Picture of Dorian Gray a long time ago and not getting on with it; maybe I wasn’t for me or maybe I just hadn’t had the literary knowledge to get something out of it. In any case, I’m curious enough that maybe Dorian Gray will be a reread in the future.

I want to compare The Portrait of Mr. W.H. with My Life as a Fake because they both seem to talk about a similar topic. While My Life as a Fake covered a literary hoax, The Portrait of Mr. W.H. looks at a piece of literary criticism that has been around for a long time and is often talked about. I don’t agree with this theory and it is important to know that Oscar Wilde didn’t either, although by the end he almost did. What I really liked about this story is the fact that Wilde took a differing view of the Sonnets and tried to explore it. This is an excellent example of literary criticism because it got me looking at the Sonnets in another way, even if I didn’t agree with it.

The fact that Oscar Wilde managed to write this literary criticism in a form of a story was equally impressive. The whole story has this real gothic feel about it and the character of Willie Hughes showed vampiric characteristics in the way he destroyed lives, in particular Cyril’s. Yet another similarity to My Life as a Fake is the whole idea that literature or the author can be portrayed as a monster.

I read this story as social criticism, looking at the homo-eroticism of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and question if a particular piece of text has any effect on the value of the art form. I don’t know many people complaining about the homoerotic nature of Shakespeare but I’ve heard complaints about it when referring to Oscar Wilde. Wilde was a big believer in celebrating art as being art and not letting the opinion of the artist affect it. This means The Portrait of Mr. W.H. is a satirical look at the art, where you have to take a more literal approach and explore the life of William Shakespeare as an artist and its connection to the Sonnets.

Oscar Wilde tantalises the reader with his literary and social criticism, mix in the satirical nature of this story and the wit of the author and you have a compelling read. One thing I’ve been thinking about is the connection between this story and The Picture of Dorian Gray which I would like to leave you with. They both share very similar titles but in Dorian Gray you have a portrait that ages and the reader see the truth, of Gray and all his sins. While in The Portrait of Mr. W.H. the picture of Willie Hughes is a lie and I have to wonder the meaning behind this imagery when comparing the two.


Monthly Review – June 2012

Posted June 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

What a great month we have had; with the reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray via the bookclub. There was some interesting discussions taken place about first impressions, the criticism, the idea of Prose vs. Plot? and Style vs. Substance? as well as people’s final thoughts of the book. If you haven’t read The Picture of Dorian Gray yet, when you do get around to it, please feel free to join in on the discussions. Remember next month we will be having a look at unusual settings in Literature and reading Life of Pi.

As for this blog, we have had some exciting conversations and with Armchair BEA being hosted earlier this year we have been pleased to welcome all the new readers and commenters here. It has been such a wonderful experience and I’m so pleased to be involved. My Google reader is now full of awesome blogs to read and comment on.

My personal reading this month has been wonderful; I’ve discovered some wonderful books, but also had a bit of a rage about one book in particular. Highlights from the twelve books I’ve managed to read this month include The Last Kind Words, a book of crime and family with shades of an Noir narrative this book blends mystery with literary elements. Empire State is a fun read set in an alternative world, the book blends Science Fiction with Superhero and Pulp elements; also the publisher has some interesting ideas on expanding this world. Gone Girl was the biggest highlight of the month (review will be up next month) a novel that kept me on the edge of the sit and occupied all my free time.

June’s Books