A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 28 – The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde

Downtown Dallas, Texas

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 28 – The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde
Read it online here:
The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde

Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming fellow. Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed. The poor should be practical and prosaic. It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. These are the great truths of modern life which Hughie Erskine never realized. Poor Hughie! Intellectually, we must admit, he was not of much importance. He never said a brilliant or even an ill-natured thing in his life. But then he was wonderfully good-looking, with his crisp brown hair, his clear-cut profile, and his grey eyes. He was as popular with men as he was with women, and he had every accomplishment except that of making money.
—-Oscar Wilde, The Model Millionaire

Today’s story is a simple one – a man, not necessarily a great or charitable man, makes a great and charitable gesture, and suffers the consequences.

There is nobody better at writing aphorisms than Oscar Wilde. Even his fiction is generously sprinkled with entertaining pithy tidbits of wisdom that can be extracted and stand on their own. Finding these not-so-hidden jewels embedded in the text is one of the joys of reading Wilde.

Dorothy Parker said in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

A short list of Oscar Wilde Aphorisms (there are many, many more):

  1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
  2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
  3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
  4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
  5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.
  6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
  7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
  9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.
  10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
  11. Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.
  12. Woman begins by resisting a man`s advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
  13. Beware of women who do not hide their age. A woman who reveals her age is capable of anything.
  14. A thing is not necessarily right because a man dies for it.
  15. Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world has known.
  16. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
  17. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
  18. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
  19. True friends stab you in the front.
  20. Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  21. Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
  22. I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.
  23. Action is the last refuge of those who cannot dream.
  24. I can resist everything except temptation.
  25. I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
  26. The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
  27. Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious. Both are disappointed.
  28. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
  29. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
  30. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
  31. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?
  32. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.
  33. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
  34. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.
  35. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.

Oscar Wilde:

Upon the other hand, whenever a community or a powerful section of a community, or a government of any kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, Art either entirely vanishes, or becomes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low and ignoble form of craft. A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist. Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism that the world has known. Crime, which, under certain conditions, may seem to have created Individualism, must take cognizance of other people and interfere with them. It belongs to the sphere of action. But alone, without any reference to his neighbors, without any interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful thing; and if he does not do it solely for his own pleasure, he is not an artist at all.
—-from The Soul of Man under Socialism

Rising cloud over the Hyatt, downtown Dallas, Texas

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The Green Fairy

After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.
—- Oscar Wilde

On my last trip to New Orleans, for the Writing Marathon, I was able to cross a line off of my bucket list. It was a small item, maybe the smallest – nothing like going to Cambodia, or living long enough to see the Sagrada Famila finished – but an item crossed-off nonetheless.

It was, I think, Thursday, and that day we would divide up more or less according to what we wrote. A fairly large poetry group set out (I would meet up with them later in the day, crossing the Mississippi on the Algiers ferry) while I joined a smaller fiction group.

We had coffee and wrote, and then the leader suggested, “Why don’t we go get an absinthe?” Despite the flurry of absinthe bars that swept Dallas a decade ago (and just as quickly disappeared) I had never drank one. And for no real reason, I always had wanted to – placing it on my list of things to do. What better time than now and what better place than the French Quarter in New Orleans. Because of its strong French ties, absinthe had always been a thing in the city.

I think the biggest reason I wanted an absinthe is my love of gadgetry, ritual, and complex preparations. I am a chemist after all and what could be more attractive than dripping ice cold water into a solution of alcohol and essential oils just until the oils are forced out of solution (because the water is making the solvent mixture more and more polar…. Nevermind).

For those that don’t know, that is the classic way that absinthe is prepared. The (often greenish) liquid (very strong – usually well over 100 proof) is poured into a glass. A flat, slotted absinthe spoon is placed over the glass and a sugar cube is set on the spoon. The large glass reservoir of an Absinthe Fountain is filled with ice and water. Then a tap is cracked open and the water slowly dripped onto the sugar cube, where it dissolves the sugar and then falls into the absinthe. The cold water then causes the absinthe to change from clear to cloudy, a process called louche.

This releases the aromatic flavored oils and indicates the absinthe is ready to drink.

The bartender pouring the absinthe, note the clear green color.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

Dripping the iced water over the sugar cube, into the absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

The absinthe fountain, dripping cold water over the sugar into a glass of absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

The louche (cloudy liquid) forms as the water dilutes the absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

—How cool is that?!—

Now, of course, absinthe has a bad reputation – and I mean that in a good way. It was banned in the US from 1912 to 2007. Traditionally, it was the wormwood used in the drink, particularly the chemical thujone that enables the hallucinations that the drink traditionally provided. It looks like that is at best a huge exaggeration, if not a complete load of hokum. It seem it’s the liquid’s 125-175 proof alcohol, rather than some mysterious elixir, that provides the desired effects.

We walked down to a bar off of Pirate’s Alley (this is a favorite spot of mine – I stumbled across a fashion shoot there once before) right next to Faulkner House Books (William Faulkner’s old apartments). The bar is called Pirate’s Alley Café and specializes in absinthe. It seems a little touristy (sometimes the barkeep dresses like Jack Sparrow) but there was none of that early in the day in the summer (New Orleans’ offseason). I had to decide on my brand of poison, settling on Absinthe Lucid (it was relatively inexpensive, French, and green).

The barkeep went through the routine, setting up three glasses under the absinthe fountain and we were able to watch them go from clear to milky.

The only problem was that since I’m no huge fan of licorice, I assumed I wouldn’t like the absinthe and this would be a one-off bucket list thing. No luck, I really enjoyed the stuff.

Now I have to find a bar in Dallas and/or a bottle of the Green Fairy.

More information:
The Wormwood Society – America’s Premiere Absinthe Association & Information Network

“I am only sipping the second glass of that “fascinating, but subtle poison, whose ravages eat men’s heart and brain” that I have ever tasted in my life; and as I am not an American anxious for quick action, I am not surprised and disappointed that I do not drop dead upon the spot. But I can taste souls without the aid of absinthe; and besides, this is magic of absinthe! The spirit of the house has entered into it; it is an elixir, the masterpiece of an old alchemist, no common wine. And so, as I talk with the patron concerning the vanity of things, I perceive the secret of the heart of God himself; this, that everything, even the vilest thing, is so unutterably lovely that it is worthy of the devotion of a God for all eternity. What other excuse could He give man for making him? In substance, that is my answer to King Solomon.”
― Aleister Crowley, Absinthe The Green Goddess

The emerald hour–
when the poet’s pain is soothed
by a liquid jewel
held in the sacred chalice,
upon which rests
the pierced spoon,
the crystal sweetness–
Icy streams trickle down.
The darkest forest
melts into an open meadow
as waves of green seduce.
Sanity surrendered,
the soul spirals toward
the murky depths,
wherein lies
the beautiful madness–
absinthe.
—-Peggy Amond, “Rimbaud’s Poison

Men With a Future and Women With a Past

Downtown Fort Worth, Texas


Twenty Five Oscar Wilde Quotes:

1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.

6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.

10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

11. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

12. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

13. True friends stab you in the front.

14. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

15. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

16. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

17. Genius is born—not paid.

18. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.

19. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?

20. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.

21. My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.

22. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.

23. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.

24. There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.

25. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 22 – The Nightingale and the Rose

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Twenty Two – The Nightingale and the Rose, by Oscar Wilde

Read it online here:

The Nightingale and the Rose

There is no wittier writer in the history of the world than Oscar Wilde. I remember reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray as a kid and staring in wonder across the pages at the pithy quotes and aphorisms sprinkled throughout the text. These nuggets of wisdom and bile were a second story concealed within the main book – I had a feeling that Wilde was pouring his real beliefs and feelings into these witticisms as much as into the events of the main text.

The novel feels like it was written by compiling a long, long list of witty barbs – and only then constructing a story as a framework or trellis to display them on.

  • there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about
  • But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.
  • You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
  • Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.
  • As for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.
  • Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
  • I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.
  • genius lasts longer than beauty.
  • The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
  • The bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself.
  • It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.
  • I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones.
  • Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.
  • He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.
  • I never talk during music–at least, during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it in conversation.
  • Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  • Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.
  • She was free in her prison of passion.
  • Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.
  • To be in love is to surpass one’s self.
  • Women … inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.
  • There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating — people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
  • There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.
  • We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.
  • One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing.
  • It often seems to me that art conceals the artist far more completely than it ever reveals him.
  • Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.
  • Each of us has heaven and hell in him.
  • I love scandals about other people, but scandals about myself don’t interest me. They have not got the charm of novelty.
  • Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even.
  • Each of us has heaven and hell in him.
  • Nobody ever commits a crime without doing something stupid.
  • The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes.
  • It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.
  • Women love us for our defects. If we have enough of them, they will forgive us everything, even our intellects.
  • A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her.
  • I like men who have a future and woman who have a past.
  • Moderation is a fatal thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast.
  • I admit that I think that it is better to be beautiful than to be good. But on the other hand, no one is more ready than I am to acknowledge that it is better to be good than to be ugly.
  • Scepticism is the beginning of faith.
  • The only horrible thing in the world is ennui,
  • To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.
  • The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.

Over the years I have become a big fan of quotations. Oscar Wilde is the never ending fount of the pithy quote. For that, if nothing else, I am grateful.

Today’s story is very short and simple tale – not enough room for any extraneous worlds of wisdom. Alas.

But it starts out as a romantic fairy tale and appears to be so until you reach the final, dying words. Never fear, though – Wilde’s bitter cynicism will not be denied.

“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. “Ah, on what little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.”