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by Oscar Wilde
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"Originally published in 1891, when Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was at the height of his form, these essays on art, literature, criticism, and society display his famous wit and breadth of learning. The literary sylist demonstrates not only that the characteristics of art are "distinction, charm, beauty, and imaginative power," but also that criticism itself can be raised to an art form possessing these very qualities." "The heart of the volume is the long two-part essay titled "The Critic as Artist." Wilde goes to great lengths to show that the critic is every bit as much an artist as the artist himself, in some cases more so. A good critic is like a virtuoso interpreter: "When Rubinstein plays...he gives us not merely Beethoven, but also himself, and so gives us Beethoven absolutely...made vivid and wonderful to us by a new and intense personality. When a great actor plays Shakespeare we have the same experience."". "Also included are "The Decay of Lying," in which Wilde takes to task the modern literary realists like Henry James and Emile Zola for their "monstrous worship of facts" and stifling of the imagination; "Pen, Pencil, and Poison," a fascinating study of art critic and murderer Thomas Griffiths Wainewright; and "The Truth of Masks," on the use of masks, disguises, and costume in Shakespeare." "For newcomers to Wilde and those who already know his famous plays and fiction, this collection of his criticism will offer many delights."--BOOK JACKET.