Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" (245 pages) is an interesting look at 19th Century literature from Oscar Wilde who rejected Victorian norms and seems to have been influenced by the Aesthetic Movement. "Art for art's sake" or in the case of Wilde, "beauty for beauty's sake." From Goodreads:

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

Modern would be amateur critics, at least some that I've read online, find the only novel by Wilde to be slow moving and over flowery in it's language. But wasn't that the point given the subject of the novel, "casting his conscience aside, Dorian Gray seeks pleasure and eternal youth, while his aging portrait reveals to him the horror of his self-indulgent crimes." Not often have I found characters as loathsome as Gray, Lord Henry, and Hallward in literature but I couldn't help but feel sorry for each of them at the culmination of the story.

Highly recommended. Reading this novel can appear a little taxing at first but ends very satisfactorily. An annotated edition of the work would probably be helpful as well with some of the language of the late 19th Century.

"To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable."

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