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Oscar Wilde on the Internet Needs No '90s Spin for Its Humor, Drama

March 26, 1998|ERIKA MILVY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you saw "Gross Indecency" at the Mark Taper Forum, you know that the trials of Oscar Wilde make up some of the most scintillating and highly dramatic subject matter ever to be borrowed from real life for the purpose of theater. A courtroom drama in which the English language's leading quip-meister is tried for sexual deviance is the kind of stuff movie moguls would drool over. And they are. Several motion pictures about the life of Wilde are in the offing, including "Wilde," starring Stephen Fry, due in May.

Wilde mania is upon us. With a little Wildean Web surfing, one can access a blizzard of bon mots in the most modern of manners.

"Gross Indecency" fuses together reams and reams of primary documents concerning "the trial of the century." A closer look at some of the documentation is on hand at http://www.jonno.com/oscariana/, a clickable walk-through exhibit called "Oscariana." The site provides words, letters and articles that illustrate Wilde's downward spiral from fame to infamy. His brazen affection for Lord Alfred Douglas resulted in Douglas' father, the Marquis of Queensberry, accusing Wilde of sodomy. At his lover's urging, Wilde sued the marquis; Wilde lost and that led to his imprisonment for debauchery and, as the show says, gross indecency.

If you're less interested in the chronology and more interested in mirth, go to the Random Oscar Wilde Quote Generator at http:// www.jonno.com/oscariana/oscar.cgi. Visit frequently for a bit of wit that is apropos to nothing at all.

Or if you want the quip to come to you, download the Oscar Wilde screen saver from http://www.genetrix.com/wilde.html. The shareware screen saver offers 400 quips and quotes from the master wit.

Yet another quote generator at http://shiftcontrol.com/archive/special/archive49/oscarGenerator/ oscar.html allows you to fashion your own Wilde-esque quips by choosing one from a Column A ("love and loss," "society," "pleasure and excess") and one from Column B ("a liar," "cynical," "useless") and plugging them into this sentence: "When it comes to______, I am ____." Merriment ensues.

At the click of a mouse, British actor Stephen Fry will read to you from Wilde's works at http://www.oscarwilde.com/. The site, which promotes the upcoming movie, also features a quiz with which you can test your Oscar Quotient.

"Reading Wilde, Querying Spaces" is the name of a New York University exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the trials of Oscar Wilde. The online exhibit at http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/fales/exhibits/wilde/00main.htm draws on the university's extensive holdings of first editions, autographed letters, photographs, periodicals and ephemera.

Though many sites provide scholarly analysis of the writer's work as well as the context of Victorian society, kookier fans might prefer to visit http://www.xs4all.nl/~wichm/oswilde.html, which contains a sound file purported to be the voice of the deceased Oscar Wilde as communicated via a 1962 seance.

For a link-laden site bursting with Wilde URLs, head to the World-Wide Wilde Web at http://www.showgate.com/tots/gross/wildeweb.html. There you'll find links to online editions of his plays, stories and poetry as well as links to photo galleries.

Brush up on your Wilde, for this maxim-happy dandy will soon be all the rage.

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