Sunday, September 9, 2007

BOOK: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I really wanted to like this book. I always loved The Importance of Being Ernest when I studied it in university, twice. It's on all the 'important' lists of books to read, including the top 50_books list. I saw it could be a book for the RIP so I was expecting eerie and creepy. In truth, I liked the story, it was the execution that made me fall asleep every time I picked it up.
It's a classic story, one that I knew the gist of - Dorian Gray doesn't age, the painting of him does all the aging. There were parts I liked, such as when the characters spoke to each other, except when they began rambling on about art and the role of the artist. Lord Harry spoke in that Victorian double speak or irony, like he got lost from the comedy of manners play, The Important of Being Ernest and wandered into this novel. I wasn't expecting his more humorous comments, so it was confusing me from the atmosphere I was expecting. Lord Harry says things like "To get back my youth, I would do anything in the world, except exercise, get up early or be respectable." He's full of witticisms like this.

There are a lot of comments about beauty and art and probably some social commentary, but somewhere around the middle I began to really scan, as I realized I might never finish it if I didn't change something. Wilde was certainly making some statements about the classics with many literary allusions, as the Reader's Supplement at the back of my edition attests. I wanted to finish it but it may be a book best analysed with a professor in an English class, not me reading it for fun. Part of the problem is that I knew what the story was, and it was good a good story, just that reading how Wilde wrote it wasn't worth it to me. And knowing how Wilde lived and died, it seemed rather autobiographical, with the decadent lifestyle that Dorian Gray was allowed to live. Most of the debauchery was only hinted at, but with hindsight, and knowledge of Oscar Wilde, it could be a different book written today.

With this, I've finished off the summer classic challenge and this gets me to 13 books in 13 decades, a respectable amount.


  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray will be my final book for the Classics Challenge. I am sorry you didn't care for it. It's a fairly short book and so that at least is promising. Haha

  2. wendycat - Short certainly helped me finish it. It's not bad, just didn't keep me interested enough. I just started Neverhwere, and I can't wait to pick it back up. That's the difference.

  3. I really love Earnest, too. I LOVE the movie with Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, and Reese Witherspoon. So funny.

    I'm reading Dorian as well. I usually like classics, so we'll see.


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