Oh, it is such a relief to be reading books I am enjoying. I knew when I took this on I would have some books I disliked, but it is wonderful that so far, the bulk of the books have been ones I can consider pleasant.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Where did I get the book and how many pages?
This 295 page digital copy was found on a free book app on my ipad, the same one where I read Ulysses. Just as a small spoiler, I have a few other books coming for this app. I have been trying to get a link for it together, but seem to be having trouble locating it again.
Have I read this before?
I had read the first thirty pages or so a few months ago, but had not finished the entire book.
What do I know?
Before the first reading I only knew a few things from seeing the movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. First, the painting ages, not the man; second, I was absolutely certain it was The Portrait of Dorian Gray. It has been rough constantly correcting myself on the title
What did I think?
I am torn with this book. There are some genuinely good parts, where the writing and the story seem to mesh perfectly to draw you in and keep you reading. The obvious homoerotic beginning, wherein the men who will or could become mentors to Dorian Gray wax on about his youthful beauty seemed a bit long to me, but also set up the desire for him to stay flawless. The first moment where he notices a change on the painting, and all of the implications for his life. The truth of the painting; it not only holds his youth, but every mark that would be on his soul. These parts are wonderfully written, brilliant, and thought provoking.
Then there are parts where I can’t help but stare at the book in disbelief. It seemed to me as though the juiciest bits had been left out. I know it is a sign of the time when it was written, but it was disappointing. Instead of following his downward spiral, the book talks about the rumors spread about Dorian Gray, but even the rumors are vague. You hear about people dropping him as a friend, and the supposed horror, but it is all speculation. Perhaps that is intentional, to allow the reader to insert their own horrors. I personally would like a few details; I don’t need them all, just a few more to show the progression from his first act of cruelty to the worst and final act.
I think this book would be a fascinating read if it was written in a more modern style. While there is much to enjoy already, I think a version written where less time was spent discussing the beauty of the man, and more time was spent on his actual progression into a man who will do unspeakable acts would be wonderful. Unfortunately, I fear a modern version would actually be a mindless action movie where he uses his new ability to not age to become a superhero. Sort of like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but without the rest of the league.
Should you read this book before you die?
As torn as I am with the book, I will recommend adding this to future reading lists. The problems I have with the book are those of style, and everyone has a different preference for the books they read. I think the commentary this book makes on a preoccupation with beauty, and the prejudice that creates is fascinating. No matter the rumors that were made against him, people were still not completely convinced they could be true because Dorian Gray was just so pretty. I also think it is an interesting statement on what human beings are capable of; when the story begins he is a very attractive and innocent 17 year-old. However, as the story unfolds, there is little of that person left, except the image that was once captured in a painting and is allowed to live on through a twist of fate. It is more than a work of science fiction or fantasy, it is an interesting psychological statement, and one that deserves consideration.
So, of course, I am still reading away. As promised last time, I am currently working my way through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which will be followed by The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.
Happy reading everyone!