I am not sure whether this novel is so perfect I should wish Wilde had written more, or whether this novel is so perfect I should be grateful it stands alone.Wilde was an aesthete? This is a work of aestheticism? Hardly. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gripping and sincere morality tale, told with beauty, and about beauty, but ultimately driven by the quasi-Gothic nightmare that rests beneath all that is beautiful in the book and all that is said about the pursuit of beauty by its primary characters.Wilde's writing is beautiful. Anything of beauty within the mise en scène is captured by Wilde and depicted with beauty. Dorian Gray is beauty in human form. His friend Basil Hallward, a painter, sees Dorian's beauty and is driven to portray it on canvas. Per Dorian's wish, he will remain beautiful, and Basil's portrait will bear the ravages of his soul. Basil's homoerotic fascination with Dorian, and its expression in his portrait of Dorian, will unwittingly lead to tragedy. Through Basil, Dorian befriends Lord Henry Wotton, who impresses upon Dorian the ideal of beauty. And, beyond that, the joy of beauty. Of seeking out that which pleases the senses. Of hedonism. A means of existence Dorian takes at its purest. Hedonism regardless the price. Personal pleasure above all else. Eventually the cost of such a life, and the sins Dorian commits in the name of it, come grossly to light, in what is in many ways the simplest of tales of right and wrong.Why is the novel so good if it's, arguably, so simple? Several reasons. Dorian's wish is not a foreign concept to men of any age. Lord Wotton's philosophy is captivating and, in many ways, persuasive. Beauty pleases man. All man has by way of understanding the world is his senses. All that triggers them and satisfies them (or more) is the best man can take from the world. Wilde knows. When (and when not) feeding the reader a compelling philosophy of beauty, he feeds the reader via the beauty of his prose. Quite literally, Wilde's writing pleases the senses. Multiple senses, in fact. The eye in its words. But more than the eye, as Wilde's eye, and his treatment of the world within the novel, reaches beyond it.That the beauty of the writing is on par with the views on aesthetics put forth in the novel as a counterbalance to its moral substance makes this a novel only Wilde could have written. There may be better prose in Anglo-American fiction (or not). No such prose, however, is as striking and of such calculated elegance and allure as Wilde's. The novel's abounding beauty provides the force that animates its theme of false beauty. That abounding beauty is Wilde's particular gift, and the heart of one of the best novels in the Anglo-American canon.Manny
"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 SpeculationsBrendan
Moral degradation follows moisturiser use.Nurkastelia A.
What more can be said about The Picture of Dorian Gray than the fact it is a marvelous book? Although this is the only novel Oscar Wilde had ever written, I think by far this is one of the finest and most enchanting classic novels there are. I was completely in awe after reading it the first time and still too in awe to even start a review now.The Picture of Dorian Gray begins with an unusual look of a man –from another man’s eyes (Basil Hallward). I’ve never thought homosexual issues could be let out so openly into the world like how Oscar Wilde let it out. The fighting over Dorian between Basil and Lord Henry, Basil’s marks about Gray, and even the words of the story which are edited and put into the endnotes. All were shockingly wonderful. Also related to the endnotes, we can see that Wilde was a man of much knowledge. He retracted and inserted other people’s intellectual works in the book. What’s more is that I think the ingenious mind of Oscar Wilde is really reflected on the character of Lord Henry though he pictured Lord Henry as someone as empty as a barrel. If a song once said, “if a picture paints a thousand words then why can’t I paint you? The words could never show the you I’ve come to know,” this really does not count the book along. Why? Because as we can read, Dorian Gray’s picture, literally, gives out millions and millions of words about him. The first day Basil paints it, the first day Gray brings it home, the first day people take their glances at it; it speaks to them as if it has a mouth telling them how great of a creature Dorian Gray is. At that time, there is no single person that would not call him ‘Prince charming’ since his self-portrait was so beautifully enchanting.As time goes by, the first-innocent mind of Gray is inflected by Lord Henry’s views towards life –towards beauty. He said that beauty is the only thing that matters, and Gray eventually agrees with it and realizes that the portrait will live forever, and retain its beauty while he himself is left to age. This is the turning point of the story, the part when we realize that wishes are stronger than life. So Dorian Gray wishes to trade his soul for everlasting youth, and to always retain his beauty, just like the portrait. Of course, when there’s an action, there will always be a reaction. Every time Dorian Gray commits a sin, the picture miraculously adjusts itself with the evil side of Dorian Gray.As much as other things in the story are intriguing, the most fascinating part is how Wilde used ‘beauty’ as something harmful. Something so corrupting that a person would kill another, another, and yet another human being, before finally Dorian Gray tries to kill his picture, his guilt –his conscience, resulting in killing himself. Astonishingly enough, when Dorian dies, the painting, as if released from all the sins it bears, returns back to the old self just like when it was first shown to Dorian; painfully beautiful.One thing that captures my mind is that Oscar Wilde had thoughts ahead of his time, and not afraid to show it either. In real life, he was charged with gross indecency as early as 1895. His works make fun of the hypocrisy of the society, damn the moralities. In short, he was leading quite a controversial life.Nevertheless, however controversial he is, he obviously concerned deeply about life itself. That is why this particular novel offers some kind of a wake-up call to the readers…narcissist readers, that is. So if you are one, and want to be saved not by lectures…take a walk on the Wilde side, let this fantasy story take your breath away, and may morality save you from constant debauchery.Scoobs
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.Apatt
“He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.”"We praise the banker that we may overdraw our account, and find good qualities in the highwayman in the hope that he may spare our pockets. I mean everything that I have said. I have the greatest contempt for optimism. As for a spoiled life, no life is spoiled but one whose growth is arrested. If you want to mar a nature, you have merely to reform it." Words to live by. LOL! This is surely the most quotable book I have ever read. I only chose the above quotes for a good giggle, there are many more pithy or profound ones in this novel. Besides being the most quotable book it is also one of the most misrepresented by pop culture. The movie adaptations tend to focus on the horror aspect of the book as if Wilde was a precursor to Lovecraft or something. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a more cerebral and allegorical than Hollywood would have you believe.As with most classics I picked an audiobook version and where possible I opt for the free Librivox version over the commercial Audible one. I only require that the books are reasonably well read; this happens to be one of the good ones which I can recommend with a couple of minor reservations (more on that later). What I did not realize though is that Oscar Wilde wrote two editions of this book. The original was first published in 1890, and the considerably longer (and less overtly “gay”) 1891 edition followed in response to less than enthusiastic critics’ reviews. Any way, this Librivox version is of the original edition consisting of a mere 13 chapters instead of 20.From the first few pages I was bowled over by the barrage of witticisms from Lord Henry Wotton who seems to have outrageous views on just about everything, and he can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Every “willful paradox” that comes out of his mouth is a gem. The first chapter alone is worth the price of the book (it’s free in Guttenberg e-book format any way). Oscar Wilde is famous for his wit and this book provides ample evidence, he did not so much write as orchestrated the language to create a work of art. The initial hilarity at the beginning of the book soon gives way to a much darker story and eventually culminates in a horrifying climax.The central characters, like everything else in this book, are very well written. The artist Basil Hallward is decent, honest and kind (not to mention probably gay), the eponymous Dorian starts off as a naïve young gentleman and fairly quickly morphs into an infamous cad. As for the amazing Lord Henry, unfortunately for Dorian he is the sort of man who likes to talk people into committing all kinds of debauchery but never does it himself, as poor Basil points out early in the book.I first read this book many years ago I remember liking the first few chapters very well but somehow when I first signed up to Goodreads I rated it at 3 stars as I was adding books to my bookshelf for the first time. For life of me I could not remember what the problem was. Well, I do now that I have just reread it. In spite of being extremely witty and hilarious at times this is not an entirely easy read; not because of the descent in tone into grimness, I don’t mind that at all. As it turned out the issue is only one chapter. If not for this very odd chapter the novel is actually quite easy to read.I am talking about the lengthy Chapter 9 (1890 edition) which is Chapter 11 in the second edition (1891). This chapter takes place after Dorian has decided to adopt a hedonistic life style and reinvents himself as a very bad boy (but oh so elegant and well coiffed) under the wicked influence of Lord Henry. Almost the entire chapter is tangential to the story and consists of Wilde’s rumination on jewelry, embroidery, art and beauty etc. I dozed off a bit during this chapter (50 minutes narration, I am not sure what the page count is, 30 at least). I think Wilde should have placed it as an appendix, in fact after finishing the book I went back to read this particular chapter just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There is a little plot in there somewhere but you have to stay awake the entire time not to miss it.This audiobook version I just reviewed is read very nicely by John Gonzalez. My only reservations are that the book is set in England and all the characters are English while Mr. Gonzalez is an American, still, better a book well read in American accent than badly read by an Englishman. My other reservation is that there is a little bit of hiss in the background.In any case this is a fantastic book and I will have to read the second edition before too long.________________________Notes: Free audiobook editions:Link to the 1890 edition read by John Gonzalez.Link to the 1891 edition read by Bob Neufeld.For a hilariously unconventional review I recommend taking a gander at this Thug Notes review on Youtube."My man Wilde had to rewrite the book coz them publishers weren't chillin' on the bro on bro action!".(Paraphrased from memory)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.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.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 book...it 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".So..my 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"]>Linda
“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.”*******************************************Keely
At a dinner party, Wilde is supposed to have admired some other guest's bon mot, commenting "I wish I had said that" to which host and prominant painter James McNeil Whistler replied: "You will Oscar, you will." Though often quoted as a great wit, Wilde was more imitator than innovator, which explains his praise of critics over artists.No book better represents Wilde's social and economic reasons for this position than 'Dorian Gray'. Though he is writing a novel, Wilde maintains a disconnect between himself and the Artist and Thinker, adopting their form only, and leaving the content to those unclean laboring masses.His style is polished, practiced, and endlessly indulgent, which tends to obscure his lack of depth. Like Bouguereau, his touch is impressive, but as magnificently realized as the gauze and tits are, they do not aspire to be anything more than gauze and tits.It is the cleverness of Carlyle: idiomatic, intriguing, but ultimately faltering in ideas. It is clever despite the content. But while Carlyle's is wild, bizarre, and flawed, Wilde is merely undecided. He is not simply a product of an elite class which epitomizes form over function, he is a rarefied parody of it.His aphorisms, quoted endlessly, are rampant in his style, providing punchlines in comedies like 'Earnest' and here, sarcastic indictments. Yet unraveling them is rarely fruitful, since their meaning is less interesting than their construction. He plays with the form and structure of language--the tacit agreements and expectations of conversants--producing wry surprise, but not insight.When he is inappropriate, is is not to build a case for impropriety, but to shock for its own sake. Statements which might be profound or intriguing if taken to their conclusion are instead twisted, altered, undermined, and ridiculed until all direction is lost. Instead of a discussion of ideas, Wilde recreates the quotidian society talk which is couched in the language of ideas that have already come and gone.It is mere conversation, stylized to the point of incomprehensibility. Like business jargon or rap slang, it is all posturing: the conveyance of simple ideas by culturally specific vernacular. Anyone conversant in the form understands the underlying meaning, while anyone unfamiliar with the style is quickly outed as inadequate.While 'paradigm' and 'synergy' are real terms with specific meanings, these are only used properly by academic experts in theory; by the time they trickle down to Project Managers and HR Heads, they have ceased to represent economic and social thought, and have merely become markers. Wilde's language is similarly derived from a small, specialized class--his are painters, philosophers, and authors--but by the time it reaches the idle, it has traded its function for pretense.The idle consumers of the arts adopt the language of the arts and then refine it. Since they are not artists themselves, they do not have firsthand knowledge of the skills and qualities involved ('The Turpentine Effect'). Instead, they become critics. They become generalized 'aesthetes', and create their own meaning for art. Artists value art in their own way, based in experience, skill, meaning, and place in tradition. Consumers create meaning based upon novelty, quantity, connections, and money.This pattern is still evident today in Modern Art, where blank canvasses may sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and the most technically skilled artists work for a pittance in advertising, which has taken over for the church (in more ways than one). Likewise, literary prizes go to popular bestsellers while writers respected within the writing community rarely get enough to pay living expenses and remain unlauded.This power dynamic is clear enough in the book--creators are constantly undermined and belittled by consumers. Since the consumers control the financial and social survival of the artists, they feel justified in the belief that they are the real soul of art. Lord Henry is able to talk circles around painter Basil, in what appears to be Basil's own language, but in fact is not. Basil is a painter, and as such must spend the majority of his time and energy honing his skill. Henry is under no such duress, and so is free to spend all of his time mastering a complex linguistic system based not around art, but power structures.Like high school, 'nerds' rarely have social power, but this is not just a social deficiency on their part, it's because they spend their time in fundamentally different ways. Keeping up with appearances is a full-time act for popular children, and so those who care more about reading books or doing homework will simply be unable to keep up.The artists must spend their time honing their craft, and so even if they have a deep understanding of art itself, will have difficulty in overcoming the social and monetary barriers the wealthy have erected. Basil concedes to Henry's points because they seem tightly-constructed and are built from a framework of artistic and intellectual terms. However, this does not make them cogent or meaningful.Henry often contradicts himself when addressing (and brow-beating) Basil, but even when Basil brings up these contradictions, he is unable to paint Henry into a corner, because Henry feels no need to stick to anything he says. He has no ideas, no philosophy, merely a customary way of life and a complex series of interlocking self-justifications.Basil is actually hindered by the fact that he has concrete, informed ideas about art (and the world), because this makes him predictable and centered in a discussion which, while superficially about art, is actually a continued reinforcement of social inequality. It mirrors the endless discourse between atheists and believers, where neither side can come to any agreement because one is discussing differences in ideas, and the other differences in terms.In such occasions, neither side can win, unless of course, one side has the social and economic power on which the other is reliant. Dorian himself is another curious case, as he is valued for being, in himself, a representation of artistic ideals. He is a beautiful man, and so he needs not labor in paint and clay to be pertinent to art, he is the aesthetic focus.He has monetary means, so he need not pursue Basil's knowledge-based value, and since he is beautiful, he does not need to constantly reassert his superiority, like Lord Henry. While he could simply subsist on his own beauty, he eventually spends his time becoming an elite collector: learning the market and finding the most rare items, and tacitly maintain his superiority over other consumers. They must support the value of consumption, as it is their own sole value, and hence must respect someone who has mastered the art of consumption itself.Wilde's own knowledge of consumerism is evident in a divergent chapter on the history of excess, which outshines the rest of the book. While it has no conclusion, it indicates what Oscar might have become as an academic: a man who, like Rabelais, would have been capable of studying, collecting, and conceptualizing a part of history left mostly unrecorded by more academia. But Wilde chose to concentrate on criticism, championing its superiority to the art on which it is based. Like Lord Henry, we can see that Wilde's empty aphorisms are not meaningless, but their meaning is social power, not thought. If he had recognized the economic dynamic which tied his characters into their roles, he might have created an insightful satire on the society in which he lived, instead of merely serving as an example of it.He makes light of dowagers and artists and the poor, but this is all what we might expect, if Lord Henry is as much Wilde as we imagine. To make fun of those who are below you is simply a justification of the status quo and the silver spoon. Lord Henry also makes light of himself, but not in the same biting, constructed way. While his debates with Basil are meant to demonstrate who is most important in art, and his discussions with Dorian to point out his social naivete, Henry's self deprecation has no such ulterior dynamic.He feels his position is tenuous enough that he bolsters it with clever speech and condescension, but not enough to comment on it or grow beyond it. In the end, Wilde is as uncomprehending as Henry, praising the critic because if the critic is not superior to the artist, then Wilde must keep his quipping mouth shut. Like Carlyle, he creating a clever structure to justify the luck of his birth, and like Carlyle, his technique is as overwhelming as his philosophy is brittle.There is always give and take in art, philosophy, or science. No man is an island and inspiration and influence are not anathema. The Modernists have worshiped originality for a long time, but this is like Wilde's hollow rebellion: an attempt to disparage what has come before in order to hide the deficiencies of the present. The past casts a great shadow, but closing your eyes to it will not let you escape it. It is only by the light you cast that you may be set apart from the darkness.That Wilde repeated is not his crime. Whistler's comment is not biting simply because Oscar cannot help reusing every clever thing he hears. What might have drawn Whistler's umbrage (as a painter) was that Wilde placed the idle, wealthy critic above the artist. He placed repetition above innovation. Wilde stood on the shoulders of giants in muddy boots, he used their own words to declare them inferior, and represented the value of paintings by their purchase price and the jealousy they drew from other consumers.But the critic can be as great as the artist, because the critic can be an artist. Every book is both a refutation and an acknowledgment of what came before. Virgil is a critic of Homer, Milton is a critic of Virgil, and Eliot a critic of Milton. They each took what came before, reiterating some, abandoning else, and subverting the rest.It is often the problem with critics that their works do not synthesize a new vision. For Wilde and the idle rich, it was often enough to tear down. The only flaw is that you cannot tear something down unless you have some fundamental philosophy to speak from. Wilde has little to offer in return but refinement and wit, which will serve well enough at dinner parties or farces, but are not sufficient for much else.Wilde himself has said that he intended artists Basil to be how he sees himself, Lord Henry as how he is perceived by others, and Dorian as who he wishes he could be. And here, he is the artist, writing as Basil painted, out of a need to create, to prove himself, a need that never quite overcomes the artist's self-loathing and perfectionism. All throughout, he is beleaguered and harangued by his own domineering critic, whose supercilious, biting wit is the timid artist's mask, and whom the artist cannot defeat, even in the fantasy of his own work. The artist would like to play the lover, but the critic is determined to prove a villain.Then there is Dorian, who is not the unconfident creator, dependent on an audience, nor the bitter cynic who masters art by paying for it (or refusing to). Dorian aspires to be the keeper of art, the academic who records its history and for whom value is the result of knowledge and research, of the sort Wilde demonstrates in his one-off chapter on the history of aesthetics.But Wilde, or little Basil, will not aspire so high. Yet we can hardly sympathize, for Wilde at once recognizes his shortcomings (he is, perhaps, too aware of them), yet cannot prevent them from manifesting into the overbearing form of Lord Henry, the part Wilde played in life. He cannot stand to create, unselfconsciously, nor manage to elevate his criticism to an objective record of art.It's hard to be sympathetic for the man who is just insightful enough to be humorously bitter, but denies himself from a whit more.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"]>Werner
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.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.Clare
Oscar Wilde's only novel! I thoroughly enjoyed Wilde's ability to play with words, to toss them about and see where they land. There is a particular joy in finding a word used slightly out of sync to it's meaning, a stretching if you will. Wilde's thick, image driven, morally questionable (to most, not me) string of words delight the eye and impassion the mind. His dialogues demonstrate his future word play in plays. His ability to create synthesis between character types is magnificient, he allows his characters to feed off one another in subtle and not so subtle ways. It is really poignant when you think of the turmoil of Wilde's own life and the idea of image driving the modern world. Dorian is captivated by the idea of the picture living on unbesmirched and clean while he must suffer the marking of time and experience. Wilde shows that unlinking these things, unhooking the soul from the body can be a terrible thing to behold. While Dorian's outer image stays idyllically static, his inner image as displayed by the canvas twists and turns foul with each act of questionable intent. Wilde himself became victim when his inner demons were publicly displayed, as would us all. While not considered highly questionable now, then it was devistating. Wilde seemed to fortell that the display of this innerself, one that you are ashamed (or taught to be ashamed of really) even to the closest few can shatter life, alter all that you know. While we are all destined to do things that inflict pain on others, even if unintentionally, it alters our spirit. Nothing in life is static even if it seems so. Life is mutable and ever changing and to wish it to be otherwise is to doom oneself to eventual distatisfaction.