Sunday, December 26, 2021

Dancing with Salome by Nina Antonia

With Dancing with Salome: Courting the Uncanny with Oscar Wilde and Friends (2021) by Nina Antonia, one should ignore the main title (referencing Wilde's macabre play) and cue into the subtitle for the descriptive phrase that tells the reader what this book is about, and why one should want to read it. The small book consists of four essays, plus an introduction by Therese Taylor and a shorter introduction by the author. The first essay covers the supernatural thread in Oscar Wilde's life, while the second discusses "the supernatural affair of Lord Alfred Douglas and Oscar Wilde."  The third explicates Aleister Crowley's unsuccessful attempts to goad Douglas into a lawsuit, and the final one is on the life of Lionel Johnson, the friend of Douglas who introduced him to Wilde, who was also the subject of a previous volume by Antonia, Incurable: The Haunted Writings of Lionel Johnson, the Decadent Era's Dark Angel (2018). Dancing with Salome is an intriguing look at the occult aspects of Wilde and of his friends in the 1890s, a subject usually given short shrift in books for more general audiences.  I found it well-written and illuminating. 

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