Heaven on Earth
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Since he discovered the Clark while scouting locations for a television movie, he says it's been his own "personal university." After a life-changing run-in with Oscar Wilde in the Beverly Hills Library -- "The book literally fell off the shelf in front of me," he says -- Holloway began his studies in earnest, journeying to the Clark every day for a month to read Wilde's letters and manuscripts. "Until you've put on those white gloves and touched the letters from Reading gaol 'jail", you haven't experienced the library," he says with a conspiratorial tone.
Holloway continued his research on and off between jobs for five years, and eventually published a novel, The Unauthorized Letters of Oscar Wilde (ex libris, 1998), and completed a play, Oscar and Speranza, based on correspondence he found in the Clark between Wilde and his notoriously overbearing mother -- "the all-time literary stage mother," Holloway calls her.
During his time doing research, Holloway became increasingly familiar with the Clark, so much so that he was, at times, able to "point out small errors in the card catalog" -- an honor, he explains modestly. Through Clark conferences, he met Merlin Holland, Wilde's grandson, with whom he later lunched in London, "in the very hotel room where Wilde was arrested in 1885!" he says with obvious glee.
At the Wilde anniversary celebration, he met scholar and symposium organizer Giovanna Franci, who invited him to read at the University of Bologna's international Oscar Wilde Conference. Since then, Holloway has been asked to participate in seminars in Adelaide and Berlin, and he recently accepted a position to teach production design at North Carolina School of the Arts.
"Part of the reason they liked me is because I'm a writer as well as a designer," he says with pride. No longer an outsider, Holloway is the scholar he years ago could only have dreamed of becoming.
"I guess I'm going to be a professor now, thanks to the Clark," he says. "I'm thrilled."
His private university educated him well.
Clara Sturak is associate editor of the Santa Monica Mirror. Seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 2520 Cimarron St., Los Angeles, begin Oct. 10 with John Lithgow reading Oscar Wilde's Lady Windemere's Fan. From Oct. 17- Jan. 13, 2002, the UCLA Hammer Museum presents The World From Here: Treasures of the Great Libraries of Los Angeles, featuring books, letters and maps from the Clark.