Thursday, June 4, 2015

Oscar Wilde: amusingly mystified about why Lincoln, Nebraska's founders named the main drag Zero Street

Savaged by the press in England and lampooned as the fop Bunthorne in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience (on the verge of a tour in the States) Wilde, in 1882, decided to seize the moment and use a tour of his own to polish his new Dandy image and "reflect it back to London, imbued with a new American glamour."
     An account of Wilde's stop in Lincoln, Nebraska by Phillip Hoare, who reviewed the new biography Wild in America: Oscar Wilde and the invention of modern celebrity:
In the early 1990s, I took a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska – a city in the “flyover” states that, ostensibly, might be said to hold little claim over the collective identity of the United States. A century earlier, Oscar Wilde had called there on his somewhat surreal 1882 tour of North America. I think the place was still recovering from the shock. One academic proudly related to me Wilde’s wonder at the city fathers who had seen fit to name Lincoln’s main thoroughfare “0 Street” – as in zero. The story summed up the contrast between the emptiness of the prairies around us and the orchidaceous cynosure of decadence who had appeared here, as if teleported from some other universe.

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