I was prompted to read this book by the extremely underwhelming experience that was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The last time I read The Canterville Ghost, I was 10, read it in German, and enjoyed it very much. Reading it again did not reduce my enjoyment: Wilde pokes fun at both British and American stereotypes with a light recklessness that holds up nearly 150 years later.
It feels a bit like comparing the two books – Yankee and Canterville – is unfair to Mark Twain. But is it? Both are meant to be fun, both contrast British and American attitudes in not-quite-serious ways. One is a short story and the other drags on forever, but that’s the author’s choice, in the end. Both Wilde and Twain are funny and quotable, but at least from these two books, Wilde’s wit appears to me both sharper and more forgiving (when he feels like it, at least). Maybe it’s just that Twain goes out of his way to make the obvious jokes and then goes further, whereas Wilde goes out of his way to skip the obvious jokes.
The last time I read The Canterville Ghost, I tried to follow up with Dorian, and gave up pretty soon. I might want to revisit that at some point in the future to see some long-form Wilde.