The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde.
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde by Joseph Pearce (HarperCollins, $29.95) Pearce's thesis is a reasonable one: that Wilde's public persona was a "calculated pose" and that his true self was revealed only in his art. That self was, against received wisdom, deeply concerned with moral truths (Dorian Gray does die horribly, after all). For Pearce, Wilde's decadence was a mask that took over his life, to tragic effects. That's all well and good, but Pearce's moralizing skates perilously close to homophobia--he calls Wilde's adventures with rent boys typical of "life's lowest common denominator"--and his smug satisfaction with what he sees as Wilde's inevitable embrace of the church left a bad taste in my mouth.