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Oscar Wilde, Superstar: The First Post-Modern Celebrity

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Oscar Wilde's 1882 journey to America continues to fascinate, and why not?

Everyone loves a fish out of water story, so the true saga of a Victorian dandy roughing it on the wild American frontier, hanging out with (and winning over) rugged coal miners and cowboys is pretty irresistible.

(That Wilde's garish velvet get-ups clothed a beefy 6'3" Irishman perfectly capable of beating up bullies no doubt surprised and delighted his new admirers.)

It's a tale that's been told many times: in books, of course, but also in plays, movies and on television shows.

Now a new book revisits Wilde's visit to the New World, but with a twist.

David M. Friedman's Wilde in America presents his subject as the proto-Kardashian:

That is, as the first post-modern celebrity -- one who, to borrow Daniel Boorstin's, well, famous concept, is "famous for being famous."

If that seems unfair to the acclaimed playwright, essayist, poet, children's author (and gay movement mascot), Friedman reminds readers that when Oscar Wilde stepped off the ship onto America's shores, he was, in fact, none of those things.

Yet.