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The Picture of Dorian Gray

 
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2008 02:42 pm
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde
ISBN: 1-59308-175-8
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Books

OVERVIEW: This book takes the reader down a dangerous path (one I find to be, ostentatiously, the epitome of the Cautionary Tale). Despite it having being first published in the 1890s, the cautions are as good then as they are now: What belies beauty? Could you hide your evil side? What lengths might one go to conceal the unseemly in their soul? One shouldn't go too much into length here without spoiling, but after a rather ethereal experience, it seems the picture itself holds the evil. Mr Wilde's style is very direct and quite readable. At a paltry 229 pages (large, hardcover) most anyone could enjoy this.

PRO'S

  • A relaxing and thoroughly-enjoyable read; no brain-twisters
  • Very talented story telling; the irrelevant is absent, the relevant emphasized
  • Lots of philosophy dispensed via conversation in this; much to hate and or love (as they case may be)
  • Moral: Lies are punished, sins must be paid; beauty, while extolled effusively, carries a "caution" light in the verbiage
  • Descriptive: One finds in this reading, much text given to grand descriptions of various beauties; sometimes to almost a hedonistic pitch
  • Engaging: Sick of classic literature where "nothing happens"? Get this one, that'll cure it
  • Loose ends become tied up neatly for the reader; leaving the message/moral plain
  • Flow: The story flows nicely. Not once did I find myself wondering what <this> had to do with anything; brilliant authoring.

CONS

  • As mentioned before, descriptions of physical beauty are profuse (a necessity, since this was a central theme); however, some feel over-board and disproportionate, not the least of which involve men appreciating the physiques of other males to rather detailed lengths
  • As a book of social beings of the late 19th century, no one appears to work. Although this may sound silly, I found myself asking about the practical aspects of character's lives.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Duty to Oneself (pp 20)
  • Temptations: Modern Society -vs- our Natures (pp 21)
  • The thrill of Rediscovering through 'new eyes' (pp 39) (See quote 1)
  • The need and value of making "Youthful Mistakes" in life (pp 44)
  • Bless those who give (pp 86) (See quote 2)
  • Spend a quarter to make a dime; live a lie to believe it (pp 133)
  • Realization of cold, heartless truths (pp 205)

MY RATING: 8.3

NOTABLE QUOTES
[INDENT]1. "There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other activity was like it. To project one's soul into some gracious form, and to let it tarry there for a moment; to hear one's own intellectual views echoed back to one with all the added music of passion and youth; to convey one's temperament into another, as though it were a subtle fluid or a strange perfume; there was a real joy in that - perhaps the most satisfying joy left to us in an age so limited and vulgar as our own, an age grossly carnal in its pleasures, and grossly common in its aims..."

2. "To spiritualize one's age - that is something worth doing. If this girl can give a soul to those who have lived without one, if she can create the sense of beauty in people whose lives have been sorded and ugly, if she can strip them of their selfishness and lend them tears for sorrows that are not their own, she is worthy of all your adoration, worthy of the adoration of the world."
[/INDENT]
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CarolA
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2008 03:58 pm
@Khethil,
One of my favourites: a very original plot; a gradual revealing of the "horror'; a glimpse into the dark side of Victorian life. A pity that Wilde didn't explore this genre a little more, he handles it so well.
I must perhaps disagree with the criticism of Wilde's description of male beauty - it is very central to the plot that the character of Gray is so seductive to both men and women. Wilde manages to evoke the lure of the "forbidden" in his readers - it makes us feel uncomfortable, but it is that ambiguity which takes the story out of the mere commonplace horror/fantasy genre.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2008 05:21 pm
@CarolA,
Yea, good point Carol.

And no, that's not a criticism. No matter how important, central or vital long-descriptions are, they can be a 'con' for many.

Excellent point to highlight though. Thanks
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Oct, 2008 07:58 pm
@Khethil,
I for one do not consider long descriptions, especially when so well-written (one has only to think of perhaps the most perfect comedy every written, The Importance of Being Earnest), an objection to a novel. Far too often, readers want the immediate gratification of plot and action so they can finish the book quickly and move on to the next without bothering about the hard words.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2008 04:29 am
@jgweed,
jgweed wrote:
Far too often, readers want the immediate gratification of plot and action so they can finish the book quickly and move on to the next without bothering about the hard words.


Yea, quite true. I fear that it's this very aspect of our quick-thrill culture that causes people to not enjoy literature as much as they could. I wrote some on this instant gratification mindset in a blog here a while back.

As far as improving vocabulary, I can't think of a better way! It seems a large amount of communication in contemporary society has been "dumbed down" in the language that it uses; using substandard verbiage over-generalizes, and in so doing marginalizes communication. We see examples every day - many of them here on the forum. Not every esoteric words need be used, but I've found that many of them express invaluable subtle overtones that improves communication effectiveness ten-fold.

There's an ineffable quality to reading a good, well-written book. It's almost a customizable sort of experience that becomes deeply personal to the reader; by visualizing what's happening - or what's being said - they almost become part of the story, the plot, the main characters. I particularly enjoy having and holding the book (my collection's getting out of hand!); I can mark passages, make notes and later refer back to them.

And while I'm on a roll here Smile I think that classic literature (for whatever genre one is inclined to) is a great place to start for one very practical reason: Those works that have endured over time have done so because of their timeless, broad-reaching appeal. I started this reading frenzy about 10 or so years ago based on this idea (I wanted to read regularly, but had no idea where to start) and it's been one fantastic experience after another.

It's on this pedestal that I post these works here... not because I proport to be any sort of expert or have any unique insight, but moreso in the hopes that others might be inspired to pick up some of those timeless gems and share some of the adventure I have. Selecting those from my library that have philosophical overtones seemed a good idea for the forum.

Thanks for your comments Smile
0 Replies
 
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2008 05:04 am
@Khethil,
What is wanted is a book that can be purchased cheaply, absorbed quickly, and tossed into the trash can without a moment's reflection, since there is another book already at hand. Alas! the same can be said for ideas and opinions.
We agree.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2008 05:13 am
@jgweed,
Yes Jg, you're right. And thank you.

And if it hasn't been noticed... this is a real "thing" for me; of all the sources of inspiration I've sought, reading has been the only payoff in terms of inspiration, insight and learning. It's one of those things one wants to take everyone - one by one - shake 'em by the shoulders and get them to understand the benefit literature can give. But I fear I'm in the minority...

.... maybe I should go join a bookclub or literature cult or something; I wonder if they allow over-the-hill headbangers?
0 Replies
 
JoseyDaisyChains
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2008 12:54 pm
@Khethil,
one of the best books i ever read Smile
it wasnt really for the protagonist but due to Oscar Wildes brillant ability to capture beauty in such aware that provokes a sort of narcissistictendancy within you.
0 Replies
 
Rose phil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 04:52 pm
@Khethil,
CarolA
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 05:28 pm
@Rose phil,
Rose wrote:

Do you mean you don't get time to read or just haven't found a decent book? I usually read about 4 at once (!) some heavyweights (philosophy, ancient history etc) others for fun. The "fun" can be anything from murder mysteries to the classic favourites. I must admit that I loathe novels about people suffering all sorts of emotional problems etc. I make no apology for this - real life has enough of yuck without wallowing in it in my relaxation time.
Rose phil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 06:15 pm
@Khethil,
Hi! CarolA,

I agree about life being full of enough drama without me reading about it in fiction.
To be honest, I have just found myself reading less and less books.
The computer has become my new library.
And I really enjoy sharing and discussing ideas with others on the net.
I did love books so. I had a clear our recently and it almost broke my heart.
0 Replies
 
ali jamieson
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 07:28 am
@Khethil,
I've read Will Self's 'Dorian' which it was based, I then rushed out to buy the original straight away, but haven't read it yet!
CarolA
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Oct, 2008 03:21 pm
@ali jamieson,
ali_jamieson wrote:
I've read Will Self's 'Dorian' which it was based, I then rushed out to buy the original straight away, but haven't read it yet!

Please let us know what it is like when you read it.
0 Replies
 
Catchabula
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Dec, 2008 02:04 pm
@CarolA,
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 05:24 pm
@Catchabula,
Catchabula;39709 wrote:
Going through this thread I wondered why nobody has mentioned the term "decadence" in this context. Isn't this book some kind of manifesto of that weird state of mind called "decadentism"?


Yes indeed! Wilde was inspired by the book (English title) "Against Nature." Wilde's book is harder core, more explicitly "decadent," but Against Nature is just as brilliant in its own way. It's a little known treasure.

Wilde seems to have taken paradoxical Romantic Satanism to the limit in Dorian Gray. He's about as witty as a human gets. It's strange that he and G.B. Shaw were both quite witty and paradoxical, because Shaw was a do-gooder. (No disrespect.) Shaw is also brilliant, as Back to Methuselah is a strange and fascinating sci-fi masterpiece, but Shaw was silly enough to think he had it up on Shakespeare. Wilde would never be so unperceptive.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 2 Mar, 2010 06:42 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;134888 wrote:
Yes indeed! Wilde was inspired by the book (English title) "Against Nature." Wilde's book is harder core, more explicitly "decadent," but Against Nature is just as brilliant in its own way. It's a little known treasure.

Wilde seems to have taken paradoxical Romantic Satanism to the limit in Dorian Gray. He's about as witty as a human gets. It's strange that he and G.B. Shaw were both quite witty and paradoxical, because Shaw was a do-gooder. (No disrespect.) Shaw is also brilliant, as Back to Methuselah is a strange and fascinating sci-fi masterpiece, but Shaw was silly enough to think he had it up on Shakespeare. Wilde would never be so unperceptive.


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