Uncanny Life of Unknown Niece: Dolly Wilde

On this day, one hundred and twenty years ago in London, Dorothy Ierne Wilde, known as Dolly Wilde, was born as an only child of Willie, known only as Oscar Wilde’s older brother.

She looked, said everyone who knew them both, remarkably like her uncle Oscar. She had the same artfully posed, soft, white hands, the same elongated face, and the same air of indolent melancholy which Aristotle insisted was always the natural accompaniment of wit.

    She spoke remarkably like her uncle too or, rather, like a brilliantly female version of Oscar — for there was nothing parodically male about Dolly Wilde. And although she would occasionally dress up as her uncle in borrowed, too-tight pants, a great flowing tie and a famously ratty fur coat (perhaps it was Oscar’s favourite coat after all, the one Dolly’s father Willie was supposed to have pawned when Oscar was imprisoned), she looked most like Oscar Wilde when she was dressed up as herself: a beautiful, dreamy-eyed, paradoxical woman — wonderfully stylish and intermittently unkempt, spiritually illuminated and clearly mondaine. She stares out at us from her few significant photographs with a distinctly contemporary gaze; conscious of the camera, casual about her audience.”

Truly Wilde, The Unsettling Story of dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece; by Joan Schenkar

dolly-wilde-as-oscar-wilde

Dolly Wilde as Oscar Wilde

Having lost her father early in childhood, Dolly became uncanny connected with her uncle Oscar whom she never met and therefore idealized, sharing his brains and wits she used to make her life a work of art. Indeed she was known for her conversational abilities she, unlike her uncle, seldom used in writing, but rather in socializing she was a master of. She was one of the Beautiful Losers: a legendarily gifted speaker whose talent was large, whose expression was private, and whose friends, lovers, and enemies all ended by wringing their respective hands over her squandered gifts and lost opportunities.

“Her conversation was, from the accounts that survive, funny, lyrical, flowing, intimate, interested, penetrating and frequently acerbic. The most tantalising and frustrating part of trying to understand Dolly Wilde is that the hypnotising experience of being in a room with her is lost forever now. Even those who experienced it struggled to recreate it, those grey morning afters having rubbed the edges off the memory, and her essence stubbornly refusing to be separated from herself. While Oscar left a body of written work that would make his wit immortal, Dolly never managed to distil her great talent with words into writing, and so it died with the last person who remembered her.”

Culture & Stuff, November 13, 2011.

It was a peculiar time in Paris in which she arrived in 1914 at the age of nineteen, soon after the World War One it became the time of salons, parties, socialites, the time when one half of the world felt guilty and not wanting to celebrate ever, and the other half having nothing else to do. Peculiar and unique, Dolly belonged to the latter, making her life a work of art and becoming the dream of many women in her social circles.

“Charming herself, she could be charmed into putting off anything, even the narratives she loved so much.

    `Go on,’ Dolly would say to her friend Victor Cunard, the LondonTimes correspondent in Venice, as he hesitated between the irresistible desire to pour out his secret life to her and the fully justified fear that his secret would be instantly betrayed. `Go on,’ she would saw disarmingly in her `bird-charmer’s’ voice to the New Yorker magazine writer Janet Flanner, who was telling her a particularly violent fairy tale, `but tell it slowly, tell every word so that it will last longer.’ Dolly Wilde’s life was full of such interesting, unfinished, delayed relationships through which she was sometimes tempted to try and fulfill herself.”

Truly Wilde, The Unsettling Story of dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece; by Joan Schenkar

Dolly’s was generation that lost its men: some of them slaughtered in trenches of war, and others returned war heroes but forever scarred by battle experience.

Women took over the role of men, and did it quite directly. Dolly was no different.

Women loved Dolly, while Dolly loved one woman, the love of her life, Natalie Clifford Barney. Dolly loved her till the day she was found dead for never completely revealed causes in her flat in London in 1941, at the age of 45.

Natalie_Barney_in_Fur_Cape

Natalie Clifford Barney painted by her mother Alice Pike Barney in 1896.

“Although she could only have been produced by the follies and grandeurs of the 1920s and the 1930s, Dolly Wilde seems sensationally contemporary. Her tastes for cutting-edge conversation and `emergency seductions’ (as she called the sexual adventures which she applied like unguent to her emotional wounds), for fast cars and foreign films, for experimental literature and alcoholic actresses, are still right up to the minute, and it is too easy to forget that she has been dead — and deader still for being unnoticed — these sixty years.”

Truly Wilde, The Unsettling Story of dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece; by Joan Schenkar

Lived extravagantly and passed mysteriously, Dolly was undoubtedly one of most peculiar infamous persons of twentieth century.

The least we can say on this day is: Happy birthday, Dolly!

Love Gina Wings

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My Book is Live!

Dear readers,

 

I have been away for awhile… but it’s not that I was inactive… and I have a surprise for you!

Secrets of a Perfect Hair Color – a collection of stories on love, lust, life, and everything in between is now live in Amazon store!

And… oh dear… what a day to be published!

 

Read on.

Write on.

 

By purchasing my book you are supporting a passionate writer on her way to independence. And making a good deed. 🙂

 

heartfelt thanks

New York City: Love, Life and All That Jazz

 

New York, New York… the city like no other in the whole wide world, has seduced most of us in at least one phase of our life… the city of art, glamour, love, fame, success and failure, a city to chew you up and swallow you whole without you even noticing, but, most important of it all, the Capital of the World.

I remember the line at the baggage claim and a seemingly long shuttle ride from Newark to a small room on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, which greeted me with an unmade single bed and clean sheets, a writing desk beneath a small window and a view on a city corner. Little I knew then that this tiny studio was a luxury in this city that has a life of its own.

Who was I then?

University student just turned twenty-four, with vivid dreams and a broken heart, I flew over the Atlantic to seek peace in the city that never sleeps, to create dreams fresh and new, to start over again and build the new me. Manhattan was the only place impersonal and great enough to provide me with anonymity which, back then, meant a whole life for me… Manhattan, a place of life more real than anyplace else, the story of invention and survival. I remember walking down the Avenue of the Americas, cutting across Broadway and chilling in Battery Park… long walks only my experienced shoes endured for it was my shoes only I wanted to walk in, despite the previous failure and disappointment. I was beginning anew, I was the new me and noone was either better or worse than I was. That feeling alone was relieving.

Not that I managed to publish my stories too frivolous to attract serious attention, yet what I managed to do was heal and reinvent myself – which was, back then, something I needed most. And, as a poet once said, it is not that we get what we want, but what we need that counts the most.

I did get what I needed. Freedom.

New York City, Urban Jungle, was a temporary home to many… beautifully assembled in a collection of essays on loving and leaving New YorkGoodbye to All That edited by Sari Botton – inspired by a same named story by  Joan Didion. She herself muses…

‘I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.’

The explanation is necessary, especially since Didion, in her own words…

‘It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.’

Not only love, but youth, inexperience, zest for life and endless dreams, are all depicted in a seductive musing…

‘Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.’

More elusive but not less real, as a part of her A Love Letter to New York City, is a musing by Dani Shapiro, when she describes her love affair with the Big Apple…

‘I was trying, flailing, failing, in an attempt to chisel myself into a woman who existed only as a fantasy, airbrushed, photoshopped, as lost as that high school sophomore who wandered in a fugue state past the strip joints of Times Square. I was a girl who hadn’t gotten the memo about not taking candy from strangers—and New York was full of those strangers. A girl who was playing a part she was wrong for, whose own gifts were elusive and strange to her, contraband, brought home from a foreign country and best stored out of reach.’

She further continues, as if trying to show how you can leave the city, but the City never leaves you…

‘It has been ten years since we left the city. A decade—long enough for our friends to stop taking bets on how long it would take us to come to our senses and return to New York. What do you do up there? Whom do you see? What’s it like? They drive up to visit us in their Zip cars or rental SUVs, bearing urban bounty: shopping bags from Citarella filled with pungent Epoisses and chorizo tortellini; boxes of linzer cookies from Sarabeth’s; delicate, pastel Laduree macarons. In turn, we take our houseguests on hikes or to lakeside beaches or to quaint village streets lined with shops selling cashmere and tweed. But we aren’t hearty country folk. I don’t own muck boots or a Barbour coat. We don’t ski or own horses or build bonfires in our backyard. I spend most of my days alone in my writing study, with a midday yoga break in the next room. My husband now writes and directs films, and the closest he gets to an outdoor activity is when he takes his chainsaw out into our woods to clear brush. Our son, like us, is an indoor dreamer. We are urban Jews, descended from the shtetl, pale and neurasthenic. Living in our heads.’

Times change, and so do cities. We have to consider that Didion wrote her essay back in 1967, when New York indeed was unique, still untouched and unburdened by corporations – quite a different picture then it is today. To quote a native New Yorker, Rebecca Wolff, in her essay, ‘So Long, Suckers’,

‘New York City manifests itself now shame-facedly as a chump-factory, a chump-house. It’s Chumptown. Artists who live there are living dangerously, close to extinction, dangerously close to the source of their art’s diminishment, an outerboros of economic exigency.’

According to Wolff, New York holds no magic at all anymore, not even if you’ve just freshly arrived. She continues,

‘There’s this thing that happens, where I speak to a twenty-something or thirty-something sweetheart, a Joan Didion who’s moved to New York recently, and I realize at a certain point that their expectations are very low, compared to my own, because they cannot possibly imagine what it used to be like, the New York of the recent past, of the late 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.’

We might be closest to the truth upon reading cruel statement by Meghan Daum that appeared in The New Yorker in 1999.

‘I have not made a life for myself in New York City. I have purchased a life for myself.’

It might be true that New York City is no longer a city not for the young and ambitious, but for the middle-aged and rich, but this will never stop aspiring youth of coming here to, at least, take a bite off Big Apple. Because, after all, we must admit, there is an uncanny Magic in New York City – Magic no city in this world holds.

Perhaps Love, Life and Leaving of this fabulous city is best depicted in eternal

 

Love Gina Wings

Virginia Woolf on Craftsmanship & The Shady Reputation of Lady English

“…Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today – that they are stored with other meanings, with other memories, and they have contracted so many famous marriages in the past.”

With these words Virginia Woolf begins the interview in a BBC radio broadcast in April 29, 1937. The interview is a reminiscence of the essay ‘Craftsmanship’ published in ‘The death of the Moth and other Essays’ in 1942. by Leonard Woolf.

In his editorial note note he states:

“If she had lived, there is no doubt that she would have made large alterations and revisions in nearly all these essays before allowing them to appear in volume form. Knowing this, one naturally hesitates to publish them as they were left. I have decided to do so, first because they seem to me worth republishing, and second because at any rate those which have already appeared in journals have in fact been written and revised with immense care.”

We can only thank Mr. Woolf for enriching us with Virginia’s another amazing work which inspires us to consider our words even more seriously – if for nothing else, than for the simple fact…

“Now we know little that is certain about words, but this we do know — words never make anything that is useful; and words are the only things that tell the truth and nothing but the truth.”

Not only it is important to handle words with care from author’s but also from the reader’s perspective, because…

“… one sentence of the simplest kind rouses the imagination, the memory, the eye and the ear — all combine in reading it.

But they combine — they combine unconsciously together. The moment we single out and emphasize the suggestions as we have done here they become unreal; and we, too, become unreal — specialists, word mongers, phrase finders, not readers. In reading we have to allow the sunken meanings to remain sunken, suggested, not stated; lapsing and flowing into each other like reeds on the bed of a river.”

It is both interesting and valuable to consider her own viewpoint at the time of creation and, although not identical, the two works miraculously intertwine. So Virginia ponders in the interview

“… the very obvious yet always mysterious fact that a word is not a single and separate entity, but part of other words. Indeed it is not a word until it is part of a sentence. Words belong to each other, (…)

How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.

And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer.”

And she further continues, describing the art and craftsmanship of writing, and breathing life into words…

“It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. But we cannot do it because they do not live in dictionaries; they live in the mind. And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and thither, falling in love, and mating together. It is true that they are much less bound by ceremony and convention than we are. Royal words mate with commoners. 

Indeed, the less we enquire into the past of our dear Mother English the better it will be for that lady’s reputation. For she has gone a-roving, a-roving fair maid.”

Perhaps the most striking point is the revolutionary meditation on words which will shed a new light on every work of literature ever written – and how do they survive tests of time…

“… all we can say about them is that they seem to like people to think before they use them, and to feel before they use them, but to think and feel not about them, but about something different. They are highly sensitive, easily made self-conscious. They do not like to have their purity or their impurity discussed. If you start a Society for Pure English, they will show their resentment by starting another for impure English – hence the unnatural violence of much modern speech; it is a protest against the puritans. They are highly democratic, too; they believe that one word is as good as another; uneducated words are as good as educated words, uncultivated words as good as cultivated words, there are no ranks or titles in their society. Nor do they like being lifted out on the point of a pen and examined separately. They hang together, in sentences, paragraphs, sometimes for whole pages at a time. They hate being useful; they hate making money; they hate being lectured about in public. In short, they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude, for it is their nature to change.

Perhaps that is their most striking peculiarity – their need of change. It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being many-sided, flashing first this way, then that. Thus they mean one thing to one person, another thing to another person; they are unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next. And it is because of this complexity, this power to mean different things to different people, that they survive.”

 

Maybe we are just slaves to words, and maybe that is not the curse, but rather otherwise.

Do not miss this valuable recording.

 

Love Gina Wings

Other Writers

We read, we reflect, we write.

Writing is a form of a prayer, as if, once written, the world lasts forever, lives after us and stays a proof of our existence. We write, not only to leave our footprint, but to be read, in hope we will, maybe, be understood.

But, most of all, we write for writings’ sake only. When we write, it does not matter whether our carefully selected words will be read, contemplated upon, or understood… we write to take the thought off our chest, the thought that is within us and is yearning to be set free. This is what connects us with the genius, if such thing exists at all.

There is no comparison in writing, or in any art form, for that matter.

Yet, we all create the unlimited artwork of connected ideas, similar dreams and almost identical motivations. We are moved by creation, by our yearn to be heard – not necessarily understood – but listened to and heard. It is our goal to share ideas in attempt to make this world, the only one we have, a better place.

We are chroniclers of the times of rapid change, trying to establish values – a category easily forgotten in the world of instant solutions and quick remedies. We know self growth is a constant process and a never ending work in progress, and are trying to keep that awareness alive. We are readers first, for we know all was already said and done, it is up to us to accept this wisdom and adapt it to contemporary life. It is this wisdom and awareness that distinguishes us from the crowd, and is making us lonely at the same time.

The stream of consciousness I am creating is a result of essays I examined being very close to mine. I am overwhelmed with the fact how similar motivations and ideas we, female x gen writers have, albeit being born in and raised in so many different parts of the world.

There is a power stronger that geography and lifestyle limits, the power being our mindset, our views, our consciousness. Once upon a time we have left the World affect us in a way specific to that particular moment in time, we, baby boomers’ descendants, brought to this Earth to capture the moral values before they become extinct. This is why our voice need to be heard and understood.

Words are our swords, and it is the words we hold in our defense.

Love Gina Wings