Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian GrayDorian Gray is a young man of pure beauty.  He befriends an artist named Basil, and at first Basil uses Dorian as a model for paintings, putting him into classical scenes.  Eventually, however, he decides to paint a portrait of Dorian as he truly is.  Around the same time, Dorian befriends one of Basil's acquaintances, Henry, and Henry makes Dorian more cynical and jaded.  When Dorian finally sees the portrait Basil has painted, he weeps and wishes that he would remain young, and the portrait would age in his place.  When his wish comes true, Dorian will go to murderous lengths to keep the secret.

Sometimes, a girl just needs a little bit of the classics in her life.  Thank goodness Amazon offers a wide variety of public domain books available for free Kindle download.  This was my first foray into Wilde, and I wonder how different of an experience reading his work in his own time would have been.  To me, the homoerotic undertones leap from the page, but I wonder how much of that was intentional on his part, and how much of that is me being influenced by what we know of Wilde himself.  Regardless, there is something sensually sinister about the interactions of the men in this book.  And while most of them do have relations with women, very few seem to value or enjoy female interactions at all.

I very much enjoyed this dark, cautionary tale of a wanna be Narcissus.  It did take me a while to get into the pacing of the more classical language and writing style, having been reading a lot more modern books lately, but once I was about a third of the way through the book I literally devoured it.  I know Wilde did not write as prolifically as some classical writers, but I believe I will be seeking out some of his other works.

I could not help but feel some pity for Dorian Gray.  He became exactly what everyone groomed him to be, then everyone scorned him for being what they had wanted him to be in the first place.  Someone needs to get this book to Lindsay Lohan as soon as possible, she may find it familiar. Which make me wonder, with all the modernizations and mash ups of classic literature out there, why hasn't anyone done anything with this story?  It seems to me that it could be redone with a modern twist, or vampires or something really well if the right person did it.  Of course, if the wrong person did it, it would be wretched, so maybe it is best left alone.

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