Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde~★★★★

Author: Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Release Date:
Originally released as a novel in 1891; this edition, June 2003
Original publisher Ward, Lock, and Company; this edition, Barnes and Nobles Classics
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, his dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged---petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral---while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying, enchanting, obsessing, even corrupting readers for more than a hundred years.
Taking the reader in and out of London drawing rooms, to the heights of aestheticism, and to the depths of decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray is not only a melodrama about moral corruption. Laced with bon mots and vivid depictions of upper-class refinement, it is also a fascinating look at the milieu of Wilde's fin-de-siecle, world, and a manifesto of the creed, 'Art for Art's Sake.'
The ever-quotable Wilde, who once delighted London with his scintillating plays, scandalized readers with this, his only novel. Upon publication, Dorian was condemned as dangerous, poisonous, stupid, vulgar, and immoral, and Wilde as a "driveling pedant." The novel, in fact, was used against Wilde at his much-publicized trials for 'gross indecency,' which led to his imprisonment and exile from the European continent. Even so, The Picture of Dorian Gray firmly established Wilde as one of the great voices of the Aesthetic movement, and endures as a classic that is as timeless as its hero.
Taryn's Review: I can remember while back in high school having to read some the most dreadful works of literature. Well,dreadful to a teenager! Many times, I wasn't educated enough to have an understanding of what the book was talking about. That ignorance left me feeling stupid and that feeling scarred me when it came to reading classics. Now that I'm older and realized I'm not stupid, I wanted to jump back into the "classics" and see what it is about these books that made them so famous.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
was a great choice and one that I was initially afraid of. Although it is a wordy book, it's perfectly readable. The edition I read was really helpful because it marked certain archaic words or phrases and then explained them in footnotes at the bottom of the page. Endnotes were also added to elaborate on some scenes, events, people, or objects, which again, was really insightful and made the book more enjoyable for me.

The story itself was interesting. Dorian stayed youthful after trading his soul for eternal youth, yet a portrait of him showed the aging and decay of what his face would look like if his actions were reflected on his beauty. Dorian began the book as a very innocent and sweet man, but after speaking with the pompous Lord Henry Wotton, he began to immerse himself in the pleasures and vices of life.

Lord Henry was wordy. Sometimes he would say something really insightful. Other times, it was utter crap. But his influence over Dorian was undeniable, despite the pleas from the painter of the portrait, Basil Hallsworth, to Lord Henry to leave Dorian alone.

I think after reading this book, a 21st century spin would be to compare society's fascination and moderate acceptance of plastic surgery to Dorian's request for eternal youth. Many people in the book made assumptions about Dorian based on his innocent, beautiful face. His peers often said no one evil could look like Dorian, because a rough life showed wear-and-tear on an evil face. Here in 2010, we can erase the wear-and-tear with injections, creams, and surgeries; what do our faces show? Just food for thought.

I would definitely recommend this book. It's not one of those books, at least for me, that you will be wrapped up in and finish in an afternoon. But taking time to read the book really helped me think about the chapters and scenes. The vocabulary was difficult, but worth it. There was a big section where Wilde went off on a tangent about jewels and other items Dorian enjoyed. That information wasn't really necessary in my opinion. I skimmed it and still got so much out of the book. Pick it's not nearly as scary as some other classics you've been forced to read in the past!

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