Dorian Gray is a young, beautiful man. When his friend, the painter Basil Hallward, paints a picture of him, Dorian, under the influence of the cynic Lord Henry Wotton, exclaims that he would rather see the picture age and not himself. Which is exactly what happens.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a wonderful book. It’s interesting, it’s well written, it’s basically one huge quote and the characters are awesome. Basically, it’s a classic for a reason. A very good one. And, if you haven’t, you should really read it.
[SPOILERS and a probably disturbing look into my reading habits after the jump]
When I read a book and I love a passage or quote especially, I use index markers to note its place. So a book I really, really love looks like this:
Now for Dorian Gray? Not one index marker. Why? Well, I figured that I would have to mark the pages where I didn’t underline anything and that, even for me, is quite non-sensical. [That’s also why there’s no quotes in this post: I wouldn’t know what to choose…]
Apart from the epigrams that I enjoy immensly, there’s also Wilde’s lyrical prose which makes you wonder why he didn’t write more of it and less plays. But then you get to the dialogue and it sparkles and sizzles and answers your question: While Wilde’s prose is amazingly beautiful, his dialogues are mind-blowing, catching each character’s voice perfectly, especially when Lord Henry enters the scene.
While reading Dorian Gray, two things kept resonating with me: Simon Callow’s essay “Mirror, Mirror“, in which he argues that the three main characters, Dorian Gray, Lord Henry and Basil Hallward are all splinters of Wilde’s personality: Lord Henry is as he is seen from the outside, Basil Hallward is as much a slave to beauty as Wilde was and Dorian Gray is the boy Wilde probably would have liked to be but ended up to be eternally in love with. [I wish that once I will come up with such an amazing interpretation of a work of literature I love.]
The other thing was Stephen Fry’s voice. In my head, he read this book to me, and he was always there, sometimes as Basil, sometimes as Lord Henry and sometimes just lurking in the shadows. Wilde and Fry are intertwined in my head and will probably never be two separate persons again.
Much has been said about the story itself and I think it’s been interpretedad nauseam so I won’t get into it. It’s not the subtlest of metaphors anyway. But I would like to note another two things: First, I don’t think I picked up all the homoeroticism the first time reading it. Thanks to slash for educating me.
Second, the misogyny in this book. I don’t know whether to take it seriously because most of it comes from Lord Henry. On the other hand, it’s a little strong to not take it seriously. Right now, I’m on the, “it’s LORD HENRY, for crying out loud” side of the argument. But it wouldn’t have hurt to have more characters like the Duchess of Monmouth to show that there’s also women who won’t go out and kill themselves over guys right away.
Recommended for everyone.
PS: Deadra, I didn’t think the dreaded Chapter Eleven was that bad but it definitely transmits Dorian’s ennui.