When I first started writing short stories, I had (earned) a reputation for writing “bittersweet” stories, to the point where when I was asked to submit a story for an anthology a few stories after my debut, the editor in question added, as an aside, “maybe something funny or upbeat this time?”
I think I’ve found my balance since then, and I do actually really enjoy writing the sweet as much as the bittersweet, and the funny as well as the sad, but today’s prompt reminded me of the power of a sadder tale—especially in the hands of a queer writer with brilliant allegorical skill—and thus, I landed on “The Happy Prince,” by Oscar Wilde.
I’ve always loved Wilde, and when he does humour especially he shines (I mean, come on, “The Canterville Ghost” is, as well as moving, quite brilliantly funny). But it’s the way he balances multiple things at once that I envy. Bittersweet. Tragic beauty. Funny enlightenment. And often with the shortest of tales.
It would be easy to look at “The Happy Prince” as a simple sort of fairy tale or fable about giving and love and how people don’t see what’s often right in front of them, but there’s a kind of unrequitedness to the tale that always struck me as so inherently queer, and the notion of the breaking heart inside the statue, heard but unseen?
Yeah. I loved that.