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W's renaissance


This weekend I took to reading a few pages of Oscar Wilde. It’s a habit to which more people should aspire, for Oscar helps keep a man focused. There’s nothing like a dose of “Dorian Gray” to put you in the mood for cocktail. Or a whiff of “The Importance of Being Earnest” to remind you that cigarette smoking is a serious vocation you’ve ignored for too long.


Broadening the reader’s perspective is Wilde’s great gift, and thanks to it I’ve come to realize just how shallowly I’ve judged George W. Bush over the past few months. On finishing the Irish rogue’s short treatise “The Decay of Lying” I quickly discerned that our President was hardly the sniggering and inept buffoon I had thought him to be, but was actually an artist of staggering proportions, who thankfully was granted another four years to complete his masterwork.

Before picking up Wilde, I had long forgotten Plato’s musings on the proximity of poetry and duplicity, about how the artist and the liar are inseparable lovers. It’s something that we’re all aware of when growing up and full of piss and vinegar, i.e. daring imagination, but then we get suckered in by the fact mongers, and before you know it, the world’s got posers like Damien Hirst passing off dismembered calves in formaldehyde as high art. Wilde presaged the crass inevitability this way:

“Many a young man starts in life with a natural gift for exaggeration which, if nurtured in congenial and sympathetic surroundings, or by the imitation of the best models, might grow into something great and wonderful. But as a rule, he comes to nothing. He either falls into careless habits of accuracy, or takes to frequenting the society of the aged and the well informed…if something cannot be done to check, or at least modify, our monstrous worship of facts, Art will become sterile, and Beauty will pass away from the land.”

And fly away she did, until the Artist known as W cooed her back to the garden. No devotee of exactitude, W has never been one to auction his noble birthright to a hideous mess of facts. We’ve got the Skull and Bones fraternity and Poppy’s tutelage to thank for that. Unlike dreary politicians who never soar above the level of misrepresentation (and actually condescend to argue, prove, and discuss), W flaunts the temper of a true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain for proof of any kind…Weapons of Mass Destruction? Who cares! Osama Bin Laden? Not my concern, anymore! Budget Deficits? No big deal! New York Times Report? Don’t read newspapers! Protect the Borders? Manana, Manana!

How damn refreshing! Only artistic genius like W could have realized how unhealthy a thing like thinking is to the average “red” blooded American, who eschews prickly thoughts as the bulwark of their happiness. Yet at the same time he also understood that we wretches longed to be inspired, lifted up upon the cloudy mounts of Olympus, or (failing that) the Father’s mansion with many rooms. Not one to be suckered in by that bogus dictum about Art imitating Life, W took the rough material of life and refashioned it to his fancy. Absolutely indifferent to nettlesome facts, he and his Arts administration invented, dreamed, and imagined. The ancient sandscape of Iraq was their canvas and parchment, her flesh and blood their pigments and ink.

As a masterpiece in progress, it was a no-brainer. Life has always followed W’s whims, not the other way a round. And he knew why (thanks to the pillow talk of his personal librarian, Laura). Undoubtedly it was bookish First Lady who taught W that Art doesn’t copy Life but anticipates it, molds it to its purpose. And just as Goethe’s Werther, a figment of an artist’s imagination, inspired young men of the 19th century to commit suicide, W’s fans could be relied on to play their part, to follow his war fiction to their own final 21st century curtain. Meanwhile the audience at home would be wooed by the Romance of it all, by the alleged fight for Freedom and Liberty that our brave soldiers were, like Jesus, martyring themselves for. If we could play some Wagner now the women would surely weep, and in weeping find their joy.

But unfortunately some lesser artists, like Michael Moore, are still caught up with all that old factual nonsense. They just don’t get it. Mike should bury the idea about filming a Fahrenheit sequel because when compared to the wildly exaggerated and fantastic works of W, his truth telling is unbearably tedious. And Americans are fed up with it. That’s why W’s Arts ministers are so hell-bent on shutting down those reality peddlers Al-Jazeera, who annoyingly insist on showing civilian casualties on their broadcasts. Nobody wants to see women and kids with their arms and legs blown off. That isn’t Art. That isn’t going to bring on the new Renaissance. After all, the smell of Napalm in the morning is only intoxicating at a distance.

D.A. Blyler is the author of the novel Steffi’s Club. His essays have appeared at, The Korean Herald, Bangkok’s The Nation, and other international and online publications. A lecturer at Rajabhat University Rajanagarindra, he makes his home in Thailand. His latest novel can be purchased at



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