Built of Books

How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde

Thomas Wright

St. Martin's Griffin

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An entirely new kind of biography, Built of Books explores the mind and personality of Oscar Wilde through his taste in books

This intimate account of Oscar Wilde's life and writings is richer, livelier, and more personal than any book available about the brilliant writer, revealing a man who built himself out of books. His library was his reality, the source of so much that was vital to his life. A reader first, his readerly encounters, out of all of life's pursuits, are seen to be as significant as his most important relationships with friends, family, or lovers. Wilde's library, which Thomas Wright spent twenty years reading, provides the intellectual (and emotional) climate at the core of this deeply engaging portrait.

One of the book's happiest surprises is the story of the author's adventure reading Wilde's library. Reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges's fictional hero who enters Cervantes's mind by saturating himself in the culture of sixteenth-century Spain, Wright employs Wilde as his own Virgilian guide to world literature. We come to understand how reading can be an extremely sensual experience, producing a physical as well as a spiritual delight.

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Book Excerpts

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1. ‘Hear the song of Oscar!’
WHEN WILDE MADE his entrance on to the world’s stage on 16 October 1854, his mother came up with a name that produced intensely romantic vibrations: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wilde.* Christening was a matter of the utmost importance for Wilde – like one of his fictional heroes, he believed that ‘names are everything’.1
Lovely names, he thought, could make even the ugliest objects beautiful: cigars were vile things, but when called ‘nut-brown cigarettes’ they became charming.

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About the Author

Thomas Wright

Thomas Wright was educated at Saint Thomas More School in Bedford, England. He lectures frequently on Wilde and has written countless articles about him. The author of Oscar Wilde's Table Talk, Wright lives in Genoa and London, and sometimes writes about subjects unconnected with his hero.

Thomas Wright

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Available Formats and Book Details

Built of Books
How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde
Thomas Wright

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
April 2010
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780805092462
ISBN10: 0805092463
5 1/4 x 8 inches, 384 pages
$20.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
A John Macrae Book
April 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429935098
ISBN10: 142993509X
384 pages
$7.99
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St. Martin's Griffin

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