Books: New Pleasures and Promises

Seven first novels offer tragedy, laughter and hope


by Robert Reilly

Atlantic Monthly Press

403 pages; $17.95

He was called an "arch-artist" by George Bernard Shaw and "that sovereign of insufferables" by Ambrose Bierce. In The God of Mirrors, Oscar Wilde qualifies for both titles, reducing every crisis to an epigram. Some of them are prophetic. In Dorian Gray, "the bad will suffer. The good will be rewarded. That . . . is what fiction means." Some are merely contrary: "It is always an advantage not to have received a good education." As Wilde arcs over London, he decides that the difference between true love...

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