THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE: The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale and the Rose
Oscar Wilde, . . NBM, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56163-391-3
Two perfect prose miniatures find their ideal illustrator in this fourth volume of Russell's adaptations from Wilde. There are no happy little diversions for children here; Wilde appreciated childlike innocence, but he also realized how often it was abused and disappointed in the adult world. In "The Devoted Friend," a rich miller who can talk eloquently about friendship exploits his trusting neighbor to the point of death. In "The Nightingale and the Rose," an innocent bird sacrifices itself for the sake of a true love that turns out to be a sham. Wilde isn't blatantly jeering at hypocrites or credulous fools in these stories. He is, however, suggesting that even the most genuinely beautiful surfaces shouldn't be trusted. Russell catches this mood perfectly, not trying to overshadow Wilde but merely helping him do his disturbing work. Russell's exquisite art has a supple ink line that's never fussy. His picture of the miller shows an elaborate, empty facade, far more offensive than a simple hypocrite. The yearning lover looks sincere enough to convince readers that the nightingale must be doing the right thing—until, at the conclusion, readers recognize he's just a dull lad. Pricey as this slim book is, it's probably best not to read many of Wilde's sardonic tales at one time.
Reviewed on: 06/07/2004