Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Date Finished: July 31, 2008 #44
Pages: 165
Rating: 3/5

Why why why do I let things get so behind? I've been neglecting my reader this week because most of my spare time has gone into house hunting (which is proving to be futile). I'll be around, I promise--slowly but surely, but I really don't want to write up my thoughts on this book. Really really don't want to. I'd say I'd keep it short, but I've come to learn that I have a tough time taking the red pen to my own writing to cut out the crap that I write. Hopefully this will not be as long as my thoughts on Tess, which frankly turned into a kind of novel. Bleh!!

The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a beautiful young man who sits for his portrait to be painted by a man who idolizes Gray. While Basil has painted a masterpiece, the painting in actuality turns out to be anything but. Upon seeing his portrait, Dorian exclaims:

"How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June....If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that--for that--I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!" (19).

First, glad Mr. Wilde's loves his use of exclamation marks as much as I do!! Um...see what I mean? :) Second, thus is the premise of the book. Be careful what you wish for Dorian!! Grrr...there I go again. Mostly at the persuasion of his friend Sir Henry, Dorian begins to enter into a seedier type of lifestyle and as he does so he remains pure and beautiful but his portrait begins to become marred and haunting. The picture becomes a mirror of Dorian's soul to show the horrid darkness it contains.

I half liked/half disliked this book. First the good--I was surprised at how suspenseful this book was! There were several unexpected twist and turns that kept me interested in the book despite some heavier and more boring elements. It contained wonderful character development, and gave fascinating insight into the turn of the century thought. I read parts of this book for an undergrad course years ago and through it first learned the words ennui and dandy. It was an opulent culture that was in for a great big awakening--especially with the onset of WWI.

But, not a fan of the writing style--thank goodness for Modernism!! The writing is incredibly rich and decadent and I found myself skimming through whole pages of descriptions. Sir Henry, Dorian's cohort, is a misogynist and incredibly full of himself (I think that was the point), but I couldn't stand his character and even most of the time Dorian's. I had to roll my eyes at some of their dinner conversations and the topics they discussed. The only other Wilde I've read is The Importance of Being Earnest, which I loved and will read again, but the wit contained in this book was lost to me among the heavy language. Ladi-da. :) Good story, any way.


Joy said...

If you gave this a 3/5, then I definitely wouldn't like it. Thanks for steering me away. :)

Stephanie said...

Ooh,this is one that I'm excited to read. I was going to start it earlier this year and got sidetracked. Your review sounds kind of like when I read Madame Bovary. I kept wanting to slap her silly. ;)

Dar said...

You know this novel sounds like it might be good in some ways but bad in others-especially having to skim over whole sections. I get discouraged when I find a book like that. With your rating of it however, I won't be putting it on my tbr list because I'm pretty sure it probably wouldn't capture my attention enough. Thanks for a good and honest review.

Jeane said...

It's been a long time since I read this book. I remember being fascinated by the concepts, but not liking the characters much.

Stephanie said...

Oh...I loved this book! One of my favorites!! Sorry that you didn't enjoy it as much as I did. Personally, I think what I've loved most was Wilde's wit. He was so smart.

Trish said...

*Joy - I think it's safe to say you wouldn't like this one--but then again you never know!

*Stephanie - I haven't read Madame Bovary--was it good? The great thing about this book is that it is really short. :) I hope you enjoy it!

*Dar - The story itself was really good, but I just didn't care for the writing. There is a chapter in the middle that catalogues all of Dorian's obsessions with different objects and that is the part I skimmed through. There were chapters added after its original publication and I think that might be one of them--didn't quite fit with the rest of the book.

*Jeane - I did really like the story--some elements of it really reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe whom I like. But the characters were incredibly annoying--especially Dorian's friend Henry.

*Stephanie - I do enjoy Wilde's wit as well and found myself laughing at some of the things but this was a lot heavier than The Importance of Being Earnest and I think I was expecting more of that lightness. The characters all took themselves way too seriously! :) Anyway, glad you enjoyed it.

Stephanie said...

Madame Bovary...I enjoyed it. It's very readable. You know how some classics (coughcoughhawthornecoughcough) are so dreary and dull and mired in old-fashioned language so that they're completely unenjoyable? This was the opposite. I was even able to get through this while my son chattered incessantly in the background. Mrs. Bovary isn't the most likable character, she's spoiled and unappreciative and very, very slappable. ;)

C. B. James said...

I think I agree with your review of Dorian Gray. I might give it a four out of five, but you're bascially right.

I think Oscar Wilde's best stuff is all in his plays.

I can recommend Madame Bovary, though you may find her frustrating as a character, the novel is quite compelling.

Laura said...

I haven't read anything by Wilde, and for some reason, he's not really high on my list of authors to read for some reason. The premise of this sounds interesting though! Oh--I too am overly fond of exclamation points! :)

Yay for winning the giant box of books, by the way! That will be such a fun package to get in the mail!

Nymeth said...

I remember enjoying this one, but I read it something like 8 years ago. I know what you mean about the language, though. That kind of writing actually grew on me, but I can still see how it would be annoying.

Madeleine said...

The premise of the story is facinating to me. However if the language is longwinded I might give it some thought before reading this book. Then again Nymeth makes a point, I will look on the net if I can find some excerpt and get a better idea.

Trish said...

*Stephanie - I'll have to check it out--I have a copy but it is very worn and probably won't make a full reading without falling apart but I'll keep my eye out for it. I don't mind Hawthorne, but he does take a bit more mental energy. Dorian Gray is also "mired in old-fashioned language"!

*CB - Ratings for me are difficult and most of the time I change my mind later on anyway (either up or down). :) I love The Importance of Being Earnest--is there another play of Wilde's that you would recommend?

*Laura - Like I've mentioned above I really like his play The Importance of Being Earnest, but the movie with Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon is also great. I love exclamation points!! Sometimes I have to re-write my sentences because I tend to use too many! See? :)

*Nymeth - I really enjoyed the story and most of the dialogue but there were other sections that really seemed to drag for me. I think it was mostly the ideals that were expressed in the book that rubbed me the wrong way sometimes more than the writing?

*Madeline - The story IS fascinating and to be honest most of the book is very readable--especially the dialogue. But I bet you can find a sample online to see if it is your type of thing. You might want to read a few different excerpts, though, as the readability for me came and went. Thanks for coming by!

Bellezza said...

I read this book for the first time this summer as well. I em mesmerized by the theme, especially in today's society (or, at least my town's) which seems so ready to trade good looks and youth for anything. Consequences and morals be damned. I thought it had a just conclusion, with Dorian's ultimate demise, and I absolutely loved Wilde's witticisms.

Debi said...

You know, this is another one of those books that I've always meant to read. Thought I should read. But frankly, have never had any clue as to what it's about. Again, you've made me actually "want" to read one of the "shoulds".

Trish said...

*Bellezza - I'm sure I must have read your review but I'm not remembering it off the top of my head. Yes--very interesting premise in regard to the fascination of youth and decline of morals (although I don't think either of these are novel). I think if I had given the book a little more time (instead of plowing through it in the mornings before work) I would have enjoyed the actual writing a little more.

*Debi - Unfortunately I've been putting off all my "should" reads all year so I'll have a bunch of them coming in the next few months. The story of this one was very good but I felt too bogged down with the writing. I hope you like it, though!!

Literary Feline said...

I read this one last year and while I am glad I did, I didn't really care for it all that much. I enjoyed reading your review though!

bethany said...

i had such a hard time with the writing and language with this one in college. great job reading it!!! I honestly didn't remember much about it until I read your review :)

Ramya said...

i am in the process of reading this book as well now.. i was an oscar wilde fan when i was in college and i remember having this little notepad with "oscar-wilde"isms that i found in his books.. i guess you just need to be in the right frame of mind to read his books.. there are times when i can read pages together and then at other times, i'd get bored after reading a couple of lines..
will be posting my review of the book soon.. howz house hunting going? we're looking for a house too right now and i am sick of the process.. just want to find a nice one and move in soon!!

Trish said...

*Lit Feline - I feel about the same way--glad I read it but not really my cup of tea. At least it was short. :)

*Bethany - Like I said in the comments earlier and in my post I did my fair share of skimming and I know I could get a lot more out of the book if I did a closer reading of it. The language was definitely tough!!

*Ramya - House buying is really tough, especially as my husband and I are having a tough time agreeing. We did find a house last night that we both really like but we'll see what happens. Good luck to you as well in your search!!

I really enjoyed Wilde's wittisicms in this book and especially in The Importance of Being Earnest, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to drown out the rest of the blah blah. :) I hope you enjoy the book, though!!

verbivore said...

I read this last year for the first time and was surprised at how relevant its themes were - we still hate to believe beautiful people might be bad.
The parts of the book I loved were when Wilde's sarcasm came out despite itself. Some wonderful one-liners in there.

heather (errantdreams) said...

I do want to read this at some point, just because the concept fascinates me!

Anonymous said...

This is another book that seems every high schooler has read it and here I am the loan English major whistling sad and lonely in the corner. ;)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I really loved this book myself. The chapter where Dorian is interested in a lot of art and such, and it's basically a description the whole time was my least favorite part, but I didn't really mind anything else.
It is a really great premise, I have to say.

Kim L said...

What a creepy book. I think I'd have trouble getting through it too, since I already know how its all going to turn out. I feel as if I should read something by Oscar Wilde though...

Trish said...

*Verbivore - I'm often a little surprised at these classics and how relevant the themes are--which definitely helps make them easier to relate to than one would expect. I really enjoy Wilde's sarcasm as well!

*Heather - the concept is very interesting and Wilde does a great job of exploring the implications of everlasting youth while living a highly unmoralistic life. Hope you like it!

*Bookchronicle - I only read snippets of this as an undergrad--definitely not in high school! I don't think I personally know any high schoolers who have read this book! You should pick it up, I think you would find it interesting (and then you wouldn't have to be sad and lonely anymore!). :)

*Lauren - That particular chapters is the one that I skimmed through. I'm not big on catalogues in literature anyway, but really Wilde--did we have to know ALL of that information? Thanks for coming by!

*Kim - Have you read The Importance of Being Earnest? It is a play, so I know some people don't like that type of thing, but I found it really enjoyable!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Trish: I definitely agree, and you're very welcome!

I read The Importance of Being Earnest myself. Very good play...rather amusing!


Amanda said...

Wow you've got a lot of reading challenges going! And with a lot of classics, too. I love classics.

Dorian Gray was one of the first classic novels I ever read outside school. I enjoyed it, except for the parts about the opium den, didn't really like those. Also, the huge sections in the middle about Dorian's collections that go on and on. Studying the book, I know WHY those sections are there and WHY they are so dull, Oscar Wilde did it on purpose, but to some degree as a reader instead of an academic, the purpose is lost on me as I skim.

Trish said...

*Amanda - Ha ha! Ya, I'm getting a little tired of the reading challenges and probably won't do as many next year. I do love them, though. And it gets me reading classics--books I love but have a tough time getting the motivation to read.

The chapter where he catalogues all of his stuff is sooooo dull! I skimmed a lot through that chapter as well. ;)