The Picture of Dorian Gray

ISBN: 0971336334
ISBN 13: 9780971336339
By: Oscar Wilde Charles Baudelaire Christina Tumminello

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About this book

This Oscar Wilde classic features an introduction, author bio, discussion questions, recommended reading and suggested reading lists as well as excerpts from Les Fleurs Du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, in the original French.

Reader's Thoughts

Mike (the Paladin)

I have been meaning to read this book for...maybe 40 or 50 years, closer to 40 I suppose. It's one of those classics that you always mean to get to. I just never had.Like many people (I suppose) my knowledge of Oscar Wilde is fairly sketchy and mostly surface. It's the kind of thing you get from quotes and literary sketches. This book made me a little more curious about the famous rebel.Most people, even those who haven't read the novel will be aware of the background story here. Dorian Gray in the "glory" of youth and being an exceptionally attractive young man anyway looks on his own visage in a portrait painted by his "friend" Basil Hallward. Having been influenced (it is supposed) by his new acquaintance Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian dreads the loss of such youth and beauty and "wishes" the portrait could suffer the ravages of time and life while sparing him such...he says he'd go so far as to give his soul for this. This book is a product of it's time, maybe a little more florid in some ways than we'd find now. Wilde takes his time introducing us to the characters and laying the ground work before he introduces the fantastic and horrific elements of the story which creep up on us a bit at a time. Sir Henry is usually taken as the background villain of the piece, Mephistopheles to Dorian's Faust... but to an extent I think that's a bit misleading and I don't think Wilde saw it that way.This is an excellent work and I think most will find it enjoyable. It is not only a well written and deeply characterized carries an understated and pervasive type of horror that might just require the reader to think.5 stars.(view spoiler)[The description of Dorian as "innocent" and "good" when he's young and when his portrait is painted is to an extent, only the description Dorian accepts about himself. Even when we first meet Dorian he is quite willing to manipulate Basil. Henry who is thought of as the Villain of the piece, is basically a fool. He knows not nearly so much as he thinks he does in spite of his self assurance. I think that Wilde showed us the flaws in Henry's ideas...just as he showed us the shallowness of Dorian. Dorian is constantly making vows to reform, decisions "to be better". Wilde "probably" didn't think much of this sort of thing as he pokes fun at it throughout his life. Dorian is a bit more serious in his failures as he graduates from manipulation, to destruction of life, to murder and so on. It's interesting to follow Dorian as he bemoans how these tragedies "effect him" take... Lord Henry is a fool, Dorian is shallow and evil.By the way, I love the sort of "abrupt" ending with no cometary at all...just the final scene. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


Hmm...What did I think, you ask, o gods of Goodreads?I thought that maybe there's more to this 'classics' nonsense than I'd imagined before. I'm not a big fan of those things so beloved of English teachers, you may have noticed, but I quite liked this one. It reminded me of The Scarlet Pimpernel in readability and entertainment factor; of The Great Gatsby in dark themes and the quietly building doom of the title character.It's hard to say a lot about it, at least as I sit down and try to write this review. I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to express all the different things I thought while reading this book. It's the kind of book that really benefits from being discussed, I suspect, because the comments of others can lead to new thoughts and new understandings of the book as a whole. Sitting here and posting into the void is not nearly as effective.Actually, come to think of it, I'm not particularly in a reviewing mood tonight, so I'm going to wrap this up quickly: if you haven't read this book, you ought to. Don't give it just snatches of your time, either. You can't read it in paragraphs. Instead, make sure you can sit down for an entire chapter, preferably more, so that you have time to get used to the style, the characters, the strange pacing of the plot. Even if you don't like classics, give this one a chance. I'm not the first to say it and I won't be the last, but it needs to be said anyhow: Oscar Wilde really was quite a genius.


“Women have no appreciation of good looks; at least, good women have not.” “We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things. It has forbidden to itself, with desire for what is monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful.” “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious. Both are disappointed.” “Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.” “When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others.” “He was a most offensive brute, though he had an extraordinary passion for Shakespeare.”“One could never pay too high a price for any sensation.”“There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.”“It is only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” “It often seems to me that art conceals the artist far more completely than it ever reveals him” “A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her.” ***************************************“Each time one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it. We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.” “Even when one has been wounded by it?”“Especially when one has been wounded by it.”*******************************************

Ruth Turner

I watched the movie in my teens and not long after I read the book for the first time. I loved them both. I hadn't thought of Dorian Gray for many years until I noticed that a Goodreads friend had added it to her reading list.I downloaded the free e-book and immersed myself in the latter part of the 19th century England for most of yesterday.There really isn't anything to say that hasn't already been said in countless excellent reviews of this book. I loved it even more after this reading, perhaps because I'm older and can appreciate more this dark, sardonic horror story.


Plot summary: Dorian Gray is a beautiful, wholesome young man. He begins with two friends, one of whom paints the titular picture, while the other is a modern, cosmopolitan lord, who puts the fear of losing his youth into Dorian. When it turns out that the painting grants Dorian an eternal youth (which one should differentiate from eternal life - Dorian's physical appearance is never burdened by the deeds which he commits nor the simple passage of time), then Dorian struggles against losing all sense of morality. Stuff happens. The end.It's difficult to know what to write about The Picture of Dorian Gray. This book is Oscar Wilde's only novel, with good reason. The Picture of Dorian Gray is like a play written in novel form - no one (I hope) would seriously contest that Oscar Wilde was an important and influential playwright with a penchant for witty, sharp dialogue. That is, his plays are a rare example of century old writing that's still enjoyable to read today. This skill of his is in full force in Dorian Gray - dialogue is by far the primary mover of characterization, plot, and conflict. And it is quite amusing. On the other hand, his descriptions, when he bothers to describe at all, tend to be overly flowery (the first sentence of the book is like ten lines long) or pretentious.I say pretentious because, by far, the most annoying part of this book is the 10+ pages of needlessly detailed description of all the various arts, skills, and knowledge in which Dorian dabbles once he realizes his immortality / immorality. Some may argue that this huge list was needed in order to accurately develop and depict Dorian's corruption. Hogwash. I've seen a fall from grace portrayed in a single line - Oscar Wilde's prose here is entirely indulgent and comes across as someone saying, "see here, see here, look at how clever and learned I am!"My second complaint is that much of Dorian's corruption happens off the pages. I recall a recent review for the HP7, pt. 1, movie which stated, "Much of the action happens disturbingly off screen." This trait was cited as a positive, and I wanted to be like, Why? Why is it a good thing that the most compelling elements of a story are summarized or hinted at, rather than shown? Likewise, there are a great number of allusions to the many evil deeds of Dorian. But they are rarely shown. The result is that when at last Dorian was actually shown committing an evil deed, I was not convinced. This was not a visceral experience.Perhaps these complaints can be ignored because The Picture of Dorian Gray is invariably an intellectual's book. It's not a story in the sense that I define stories - it's a philosophical journey. It's a hypothetical... what if: Is the dark side inevitable? Is a human innocent at birth and corrupt at death? It is the planting of a seed of doubt in your own mind; as you read through it, you can't help but wonder... how would I behave, if I could get away with everything? It is in this role, I would suggest, that The Picture of Dorian Gray is historically considered a must-read.I do not concur. Is this a book you should read? Undoubtedly. Is it one you must read? Sorry, no.Edit: I retroactively added a star because, despite my initial doubts about the book, I've been using the ideas contained within quite often. I think it explores the connection of physical beauty & goodness in a way that has become obfuscated by modern society's hypocritical and inane mantra: 'beauty is on the inside.'


19th century people do funny things. For example, the males characters are constantly picking out flowers for their 'buttonholes'. And not just any flower, but colour and specie specific orchid. Heavy floor length curtain was popular (think about it, they didn't have that many windows back then, so the interior would be pretty gloomy most of the time). Hot chocolate is consumed before coffee as breakfast (and not just for children). They also faint easily (maybe it's the chocolate feast). I'm also glad facebook status has now replaced speedy servants with preposterous amount of letter writing. And the government who wanted to hang this guy for writing a bad story? Really? How would you feel if they hang Dan Brown? I don't understand why people take this book so seriously. It's really fun, full of witty dialogues, philosophical insights and jack-ass comebacks. Yeah that's basically it, just really funny like a 30 Rock episode. It's probably lowbrow to compare one of the greatest literary work to TV, but meh, we should all chill like Dorian.

Henry Avila

"A face without a heart", so said Shakespeare in Hamlet. But it applies to the portrait of Dorian Gray, more readily.When the young gentleman Dorian Gray.From a wealthy aristocratic family.In Victorian England.Has his picture completed. Something is missing.Basil Hallward,the painter senses it.And insists that no one, sees his greatest work.But a few people...The witty Lord Henry Watton,Dorian's soon to be best friend. Seems amused.A shy artist!All three are fascinated by the painting.Discussing it at length,in Mr.Hallward's house. The lord is a notorious man.With a well- deserved evil reputation.Warned by many,to stay away from him.Gray's a lonely orphan.Needs excitement in his dreary life. Watton tells Dorian to have fun.While he is still young.It will not last long.Mr.Gray's good looks.Like a moth to a flame.The boy can't resist.Dorian wishes that the portrait, ages, while he remains young.As time goes by.Dorian would give his soul for that!Lord Henry laughs at the oath.But his request is fulfilled!And shortly afterwards. Dorian meets a beautiful seventeen year old actress.Both fall madly in love.Sibyl Vane, later gives a really bad performance. In front of Gray's two friends.The young gentleman is crushed and so disappointed.He leaves her.Sibyl than kills herself.James her brother .Has pledged to liquidate anyone who harms his sister.He will cause Mr.Gray much concern later on. The wicked lord tells the distraught youth, to forget about it."Eternal youth,infinite passion,pleasures subtle and secrets,wild joy and wilder sins".All this and only the picture to show its evil.Great bargain Dorian feels.Rumors abound about Dorian.But they the people, look at his face and see only purity.Gray continues his hedonistic life.Murder ,another suicide and a killing results...In a locked room,at his home. Where the curious Mr.Gray, keeps the picture.It Grotesquely Changes, whenever more wickedness. Is committed by the owner.The ugly side of Dorian,only he sees. Later into the shadows ,Dorian goes.To get opium. He wants salvation through drugs.To blackout his memories.But gloom is everywhere.A thick atmosphere of foreboding. Intense desperation,and helplessness, prevails.Reaching for something,that will save his poor soul.To make him feel worthwhile.That life has some meaning.But is all lost? A mournful torrent rushes Dorian forward,always forward, into the abyss.To the darkness,to the endless unknown regions.To oblivion?The light is going out.Dorian must face his destiny. He couldn't escape himself.Sad end. But he earned it....

Litchick (is stuck in the 19th century)

Operation Project Gutenberg (view spoiler)[Fuck My Life, my office upgraded software and now I can’t get to any other book related sites or apps so I have to subsist on re-reading classics when my computer is busy building code. Welp, might as well pen a series of reviews. (hide spoiler)]If you haven’t read this book, you should. It's hands down the most quotable novel I have ever read. In my paperback version of it you can barely discern the print through all the cramped notes I’ve stuffed into the margins and the blobs of yellow, pink and green highlighter that take up a majority of each page. What? I have a highlighting system, don’t judge me. For those of you who don’t know the scandal-ridden history of this work of art, allow me to enlighten you. When it was first printed in 1890 by a British monthly magazine, the editors there, without the knowledge of the author, sheared off a little over 500 words from it because they thought it was “indecent”. It wasn’t enough.Victorian England was still outraged over it. Reviewers called Wilde immoral and hedonistic, and The Picture of Dorian Gray homoerotic, unclean, effeminate and contaminating. Needless to say, the criticism got to the author. In response to it, the book was further edited, more passages were “toned down”, deleted or re-written and six chapters were added to bring more depth to the characters and their actions in attempt to assuage the readers’ ‘delicate sensibilities’. It wasn’t enough. Again.I won’t go further into the life of the author as his story is even grimmer than that of his only published novel. Instead I’ll say this; I hope to God that mankind has moved forward enough that his tale will never be repeated. We should encourage artists and their genius, not destroy them. For how can we make any progress if we repress our innovators? So you see my five stars and here’s where you’re probably thinking “But what about the misogyny? Aren’t you a feminist? How can you give this book five stars when it includes quotes like this:"I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated."I’ve read a lot of other reviews for this book and some people seem pretty irritated by passages like the above. I understand the irritation but let it be with the character and not the book or the author. I have Oscar Wilde’s memoirs in my library. I also have two biographies about him and have done a lot of additional research (if you couldn’t already tell). Wilde did not appear to be a misogynist. In fact, at one point he was an editor of a women’s magazine and personally edited, published and lauded several articles on feminism and women’s suffrage. The character of Lord Henry, however, is a misogynist, and I’m not arguing that. But there is brilliance in making him so disgusted by women and even though I don’t particularly enjoy it, I applaud how it was done.Here’s a great article describing Wilde’s motivations way better than I ever could.Suffice to say, this book is one of my favorites. I can’t properly review it. I just…can’t. Everything has already been said, so why add my opinion to the masses when it would only be an outpouring of fangirling? And just in case you’re curious, a few houses have recently published the unedited version of this book. I suggest you read both. In closing, I leave you with some of my favorite quotes:“…there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”“There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction, the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings.”"Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.""Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.""Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.""What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?""All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.""I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about it's use. It is hitting below the intellect.""Every effect that one produces gives one an enemy. To be popular one must be a mediocrity."["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


Cool book. I recently read Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, which makes a nice companion piece to this since they're sortof about the same thing. Dorian Gray was published in 1890, Jekyll & Hyde in 1886; Wilde's apparently on record as admiring Jekyll & Hyde.I think Wilde's lack of experience writing novels shows sometimes. James Vane is introduced so clumsily that it's instantly clear that Sibyl will (view spoiler)[come to an unfortunate end and James will take revenge. There's no other reason for his character to exist, right? "If he ever does you any wrong, I shall kill him." (hide spoiler)] Not brilliantly subtle.Jekyll & Hyde, by contrast, is a tidy little package by a master storyteller. But it doesn't reach for the same heights that Dorian Gray does. Wilde's not always successful, but I think he's set his sights higher.I'm a little afraid that Wilde thinks Lord Henry is as charming as everyone in the book seems to. From quotes I've read, and from Wilde's preface to this book ("All art is quite useless"), Henry's paradoxical style seems to be an exaggerated version of Wilde's own. The problem is that Henry's a total bore. He's just constructing elaborate nonsense based on a formula. You could probably write a software program to deliver Henry-isms. "I'm tired!" "I tire only of sleeping." "That girl's hot!" "There's nothing so ugly as a pretty girl." Oh, shut up.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Stacia (out of inspiration)

To influence a person is to give him one's own soul. It's times like these when I'm glad that I rate books apples-to-apples. If the exact same characters from The Picture of Dorian Gray had shown up in a modern day book, I might have considered pulling a DNF. But I am glad that I stuck with it because now I have no more excuses to put off making a beautiful-word-porn shelf.I was surprised to find quotes in here that I'd seen many times before, but had never attached to a specific work. I was surprised to find so many passages worth marking. "They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris," chuckled Sir Thomas."Really! And where do bad Americans go to when they die?" inquired the Duchess."They go to America." Dorian was a douche. He was a crybaby douche who was easily pushed around. I hated his character, and hated his PoV.The reason why I liked the story is that it explored the notion of discounting what's expected of you and doing what you'd rather do instead.While I am not a fan of the general concept of putting oneself above all else, some of the points made actually resonated with me, even when coming from a man who had absolutely no moral fiber. Am I perhaps a little twisted myself? "Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes." I get that. Dorian Gray was : twisted, dark, sometimes witty, and often deplorable.I get that.Dorian Gray was also : annoying as hell. I get the reason for that. But I still didn't like the characters.In the end, the word porn salvaged my opinion. I actually expected something more depraved, since I'd seen the movie first. This was surprisingly less shocking than I'd anticipated. I'll give Wilde credit for being a pioneer of his day though.


I don't know what I was quite expecting here. It's a psychological horror story with a lot of comic relief, in the form of the endless witty paradoxes. After page 30 you are thinking that if Lord Henry makes just one more crack you're going to knock his monocle off his family crest and grind it underfoot. Oscar often clearly thinks he's being hilarious with his wit with a capital W – and maybe it's me, but Oscar Wilde often sounds like a parody of Oscar Wilde, like in the Monty Python sketchWHISTLER: Your Majesty is like a stream of bat's piss.(gasps) THE PRINCE OF WALES: What?WHISTLER: It was one of Wilde's.OSCAR WILDE: I, um, I, ah, I merely meant, Your Majesty, that, ah, you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark.THE PRINCE OF WALES:Oh, ho-ho, very good.But of course, some of it is very good stuff :The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties. I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing. When we meet we tell each other the most absurd stories with the most serious faces. The fact was, one of her married daughters had come up quite suddenly to stay with her, and to make matters worse, had actually brought her husband.One of those middle-aged mediocrities so common in London clubs who have no enemies but are thoroughly disliked by their friends.But his character Lord Henry goes on and on with the wit and the aphorismsShe is a peacock in everything but beauty…she tried to found a salon and only succeeded in opening a restaurant…. One can't stand other people having the same faults as ourselves. And you get a lot of guff about womenNo woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. A man can be happy with any woman, as long as he does not love her. As for conversation, there are only five women in London worth talking to, and two of these can't be admitted into decent society. (that last one reminds me of the weird quote from Captain Beefheart – "There are only forty people in the world and five of them are hamburgers". Oh, how rude of me – Oscar, allow me to introduce Captain Beefheart. Captain Beefheart, may I present Mr Oscar Wilde – I believe you may have heard the name.)Then there's the necessarily undeclared but pretty open gayness. How the two older men worship this young Adonis Dorian – they openly salivate! - and how he reciprocates too. He says to Lord Henry 30 minutes after meeting him :I feel I must come with you. Do let me. And you will promise to talk to me all the time? No one talks so wonderfully as you do.What a flirt. I don't think boys talk to each other like this anymore. They're a little more discreet these days.So as the story saunters along, and at a couple of points you think there never will be a story, the banter and the brittle conversations die away and Dorian, his portrait miraculously ageing instead of him, realises he can "sin" without consequence. He turns into a vicious voluptuary, a promiscuous profligate, an effulgent epicurean and a licentious libertine. In time the word gets round, and society reacts with the strongest possible disapproval :He was very nearly blackballed at a West End club… and it was said that on one occasion when he was brought by a friend into the smoking-room of the Churchill, the Duke of Berwick and another gentleman got up in a marked manner and went out.That would cut a fellow to the very quick, though, wouldn't it. What would be the modern equivalent? There isn't one. Both Dorian and the novel turn strange. You might think that the life of a young handsome sensualist would consist of orgies and opium, roofies and deflorations, and maybe a black mass thrown in for kicks, with goats and orphans, but you would be wrong. Dorian plunges into a life of strange obsessions – for ten pages we get elaborate lists of a) perfumes, b) jewels, c) tapestries, and d) world music – yes, that came as a surprise to me too :He used to give curious concerts in which mad gypsies tore wild music from little zithers or grave yellow-shawled Tunisians plucked at the strained strings of monstrous lutesSo WOMAD then.Dorian collects instruments like the furuparis, human bone flutes, sonorous green jaspers, the clarin, the teponazali, some yotl-bells and a Stratocaster made from the skulls of Tibetan lamas. No, I made up the last one. But this is a real quote : "he had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments". I was kind of disappointed. Is this really debauchery? I don't think Ozzy Osbourne would recognise it as such.With the change of gear in the book, we find that Oscar can come out with some quite extraordinary sentences. Here is a favourite :There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamoured of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself, and instinct with that vivid life that lurks in all grotesques, and that lends to Gothic art its enduring vitality, this art being, one might fancy, especially the art of those whose minds have been troubled with the malady of reverie.Oscar's solitary novel is a gothic tale of a man who came to think that he could commit sin without consequence. And he couldn't. It's either curiously conservative – God will smite you down, there's no escape, and nor should there be – or it's a coded message of revolution : the idle rich have got it coming to them. I think Oscar became a convert to some form of socialism round about the time he wrote his novel, so I'm going with the latter interpretation. It suits me. I think there are fifty shades of Dorian Gray even now cashing in their half million dollar bonuses and thinking that they'll be young and invulnerable forever. But vengeance will come like a thief in the night.


Wilde deliberately cultivated the public persona of a cynical, amoral hedonist, much like the character of Henry Wotton here; but there are indications in some of his writings that his real attitude towards faith and virtue was more approving than he let on (he eventually converted, very late in life, to Roman Catholicism). This novel could serve as exhibit A for that premise: the deformity and ugliness that comes to Dorian's portrait is not primarily caused by physical changes, but by spiritual and moral devolution --and if no other symbolism were furnished, the picture's ultimate hideousness expresses the author's judgment upon the changes in his protagonist; for a person as worshipful of beauty as Wilde, there could be no greater condemnation than depicting something as ugly. (Ever mindful of his image, in his preface he disclaims any moral message --but allows that a fiction writer is concerned with the moral life of his characters, which in practice is a distinction without much difference!)Whether or not this is supernatural fiction depends on how the reader explains (Wilde doesn't) the granting of Dorian's wish; in the movie version, he utters it before the image of a pagan Egyptian god, whom Henry avers is fully capable of granting it, but this is absent in the book. For Wilde's purpose, whether the cause is supernatural, psychic, or some other natural force is immaterial --the crux of the story is the result, not the cause, and what that result has to tell us about how Dorian lives his life.Stylistically, this book is written with typical Victorian diction; and it is not, for the most part, a novel of action --its horror results mostly from moral revulsion, not from violence (though there is some of that) or from scary apparitions. If those features would bother or bore you (they didn't me ;-) ), this wouldn't be the book for you. But if you appreciate the kind of fiction that forces you to think about what's important in life, and how and why it should be lived, Wilde's masterpiece will do exactly that.


Oh Dorian. Oh Dorian.When I first read this book in the fruitless years of my youth I was excited, overwhelmed and a blank slate (as Dorian is, upon his first encounter with Lord Henry) easily molded, persuaded, influenced, etc.Certain Wildisms (Wildeisms?) would take my breath away. Would become my mottos to believe in. To follow. To live.Lines like:"It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.""But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.""If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.""Genius lasts longer than Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place.""You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know."Re-reading this masterpiece and coming upon these highlighted lines was possibly more interesting than the book this time. Why had I highlighted these lines? Do they still mean the same thing to me, as they did when I first took note of them, enough to highlight them? I still love all of those lines. But no longer feel so strongly for them.Now these are lines that stick out still to me. Or were newly underlined on the second pass through. New Wildisms to mold me."Oh, I can't explain. When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it. When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going. If I did, I would lose all my pleasure. It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one's life. I suppose you think me awfully foolish about it?""Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty.""Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.""I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects.""Ah! this Morning! You have lived since then.""what brings you out so early? I thought you dandies never got up till two, and were not visible till five." --A new personal favorite. That I follow very seriously."She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm."'He thought for a moment. "Can you remember any great error that you committed in your early days, Duchess?" he asked, looking at her across the table. "A great many, I fear," she cried."Then commit them over again," he said, gravely. "To get back one's youth one has merely to repeat one's follies.""A delightful theory!" she exclaimed. " I must put it into practice.""Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion."It turns out that all of these quotes occur in the first 45 pages, except that last one which is right near the end. And it seems most of my reviews end up being mostly quotes from the book itself, but I figure this is what shaped and informed my reading, so I want to share it with all of you. What do you think of it all?That said, poor Sybil Vane! Poor James Vane! Poor Basil Hallward! Shit, even poor old Lord Henry Wotton! And Dorian! Oh Dorian! Lead the life you did and for what? That's all I am going to say about the book. I don't think I shall read Against Nature, for fear of being seduced like Dorian.If you're tired of this review or just tired in general, stop now and come back later. I am going to include two more quotes from the book that truly fucked me up. So much I had to read them at least 3 times in a row. And then transcribe them here for you. The last section, thats the one that did it. Beautiful.Here goes:"There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral-immoral from the scientific point of view.""Why?""Because to influence a person is to give him one's own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else's music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly-that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry and cloth the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals; the terror of God, which is the secret of religion-these are the two things that govern us. And yet-""And yet," continues Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice,"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream-I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal-to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sins, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame-""Stop!" faltered Dorian Gray, "stop! you bewilder me. I don't know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don't speak. Let me think, or, rather, let me try not to think."Whew.And:"There are few of us who have not sometimes wakened before dawn, either after one of those dreamless nights that make us almost enamored of death, or one of those nights of horror and misshapen joy, when through the chambers of the brain sweep phantoms more terrible than reality itself, and instinct with that vivid life that lurks in all grotesques, and that lends to Gothic art its enduring vitality, this art being, one might fancy, especially the art of those who minds have been troubled with the malady of reverie. Gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they appear to tremble. In black, fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl into the corners of the room, and crouch there. Outside, there is the stirring of the birds among the leaves, or the sound of men going forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down from the hills and wandering round the silent house, as though it feared to wake the sleeper, and yet must needs call forth Sleep from her purple cave. Veil after veil of thin, dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colors of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern. The wan mirrors get back their mimic life. The flameless tapers stand where we had left them, and beside them lies the half-cut book that we had been studying, or the wired flower that we had worn at the ball, or the letter we had been afraid to read, or that we had read too often. Nothing seems to us changed. Out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life that we had known. We have to resume it where we had left off, and there steals over us a terrible sense of the necessity for the continuance of energy in the same wearisome round of stereotyped habits, or a wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids might open some morning upon a world that had been refashioned anew in the darkness for our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh shapes and colors, and be changed, or have other secrets, a world in which the past would have little or no place, or survive, at any rate, in no conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance even of joy having its bitterness, and the memories of pleasure their pain."Yep.

Benjamin Duffy

Such, such a strange and interesting book. Yet I can't give it more than three stars.The easiest way to look at The Picture of Dorian Gray, to me, is to break it into three acts.For the first few chapters, I was completely captivated. The three main characters (Basil, Henry, and Dorian) are laid out quickly, succinctly, and beautifully (and all three are shining literary archetypes), the MacGuffin is introduced (though it doesn't commence Guffination until well into Act II), and the exposition is lush and gorgeous and decadent. In addition, the dialogue is witty, pithy, scathing, and eminently quotable: literally 75% of the conversation in the book is pure epigrams. It eventually gets a little tiresome, but in the first third of the book, you feel as though you're sitting in a room with the coolest kids in the world - especially Henry, whose pronouncements in favor of amoral pursuit of pleasure must have been shocking to Victorian-era readers, at least so bluntly put.This section of the book is also double triple gay. It's the gayest thing that ever gayed it up in Gaytown. This was the first Oscar Wilde I'd read, and while I was certainly aware that he himself was homosexual, I was surprised nonetheless. I found myself repeatedly muttering out loud, as I read the first third of the book: Wow, this is all really rather gay...HOLY COW these dudes are gay...god dammit, get a room, guys...YES I get that he's beautiful...OMG you dudes are so gay...not that there's anything WRONG with that...REALLY? His lush red lips again? Are these guys gonna start doin' it?... Yes, I made quite a scene, reading my Kindle on the commuter train in downtown Salt Lake City and mumbling over my gay little book.Suffice it to say, amid the handsome men throwing themselves onto couches in louche, careless manner, crushing daisies in their graceful hands, etc., the homoerotic subtext was so overwhelming that I was actually slightly surprised that it never jumped from subtext to just plain text.Nonetheless, if the book had continued in the vein of Act I, it would have been a fantastic read. The problem, however, was Act II. Near as I can tell, Act II's purpose is to convey, as quickly as possible (and the book is a fairly short one) that Dorian Gray experiences every sensual pleasure that the world has to offer, and becomes more and more debauched and decadent, all the while showing no outward signs of moral decay or physical aging. Honestly, the whole thing feels rushed. There are large stretches in the middle of the book where Wilde rattles off interminable lists of things that Dorian experiences: first he's into beautiful smells; then it's exotic music; then it's precious gemstones; and then luxurious fabrics, and on and on. In each case, the author lists multiple examples, with descriptors, and it all flies by in a blur. It's tedious. What shoulda coulda come off like a montage scene in an 80s movie comes off instead like a particularly dry chapter from the Book of Numbers or perhaps like Bubba reciting the 1001 culinary uses for shrimp in Forrest Gump. At any rate, the middle sections of the book are a drag. You can get what Wilde is going for, but it lacks the poignancy and impact of the first act.Act III picks up the pace again, and surprisingly (to this reader at least), becomes a pretty standard late-19th-century morality play. For as much as the book is neck deep in Henry's amoral aphorisms and shockingly debauched philosophizing, the actual resolution of the story contradicts pretty much everything he preaches. The titular character suffers for, and regrets, his wanton ways, and he comes to a miserable end. The End.Worthwhile read, but fails to fulfill the promise of the first two or three chapters.


"My dear Jordan!" said Lord Rayner expansively, as the butler discreetly closed the door behind his young visitor. "Really, it is too good to see you again! And what brings you to Cambridge?""Oh, this and that," said the lad, flinging himself casually onto a priceless Ikea divan. "By the way, has there been some mistake in the casting? I thought I was female?""Well, since we're doing Dorian Gray, I hoped you would have no objection to reversing your gender," said his host. "And besides, is there anything quite as female as an attractive young man?""How could one disagree?" murmured the lad, as a becoming blush suffused his ivory cheek. "So, aren't you glad I persuaded you to read it?"The rest of this review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations

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