Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde
3.5 / 5

Published 1890

First Sentence
"The artist is the creator of beautiful things."
Publisher's Description:
Oscar Wilde's story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is one of his most popular works. Written in Wilde's characteristically dazzling manner, full of stinging epigrams and shrewd observations, the tale of Dorian Gray's moral disintegration caused something of a scandal when it first appeared in 1890. Wilde was attacked for his decadence and corrupting influence, and a few years later the book and the aesthetic dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde's homosexual liaisons. Of the book's value as autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be--in other ages, perhaps."
Dear Reader,

I was going to start this post by saying that this book was probably my least favorite of Wilde's work, but then I realized that the only things I've read by Mr. Wilde are this novel and his play, The Importance of Being Earnest.  I loved that play, so it had a lot to live up to.  And Dorian just didn't do it, unfortunately.  I had such high expectations, and Wilde certainly is a master writer, but I do feel as if his clever observations of life and quick, bantering witticisms are much  better suited to the stage than the page.  I suppose that might explain why he didn't write much prose, and why this was his only novel.  Still, I certainly am not saying it was awful by any stretch of the imagination.  I suppose what I am saying is this: for such a small book, there were long stretches of meandering examinations of the meaning of life, and I didn't really enjoy those sidebars.  I did enjoy the story as a whole; it was a very interesting study into humanity and soul and conscience.  And I do understand that the book needed both the story and the diatribes to propel it. just wasn't quite my cup of tea.  That's all!

I don't believe I need to go too into detail about the actual story of this novel: it's quite famous, if not for the book itself, then for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, right?  But it's definitely not what I expected of the book - there was very little detail about the interactions between Dorian and his painting. There was more about how the painting and the situation came to be.  And Dorian was already a pretty wicked man by the time the painting became his conscientious mirror.  I had thought there would be more story to the book, but I felt as if the exposition and the story itself were pretty evenly balanced.  Which, as I said, I found unfortunate.

Dorian Gray himself was a horrible little man, vain and upsetting in so many ways.  His friends and acquaintances were not much better, to be honest.  Wilde clearly had a superiority complex when he examined the society of his day.  As perhaps well he should have; he was a brilliant man who shunned a lot of the falsity and pandering which was the sentiment of the day.  And he did it so CLEVERLY.  I can't fault the man.  But I am, ultimately, glad that he stuck more to writing plays, which are his true forte.

I ought to go read a few more of them, though, before I can make that statement with any sort of confidence.


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