11 February 2007

FEATURED BOOK: The Picture of Dorian Gray

What I say:
This book is AMAZING. Definitely one of my favourite books ever. I'd never read any of Oscar Wilde's work before but I just loved this. His subtle mix of philosophy and narrative is perfect for my taste in literature and I just loved the questions he raised about beauty, youth and society in general.

Dorian Gray, in all his ever-growing evilness, is an intriguing and perfectly-formed main character. As you read you become more and more forgiving of his sins as he becomes better and better at convincing us (and himself) that he's not a sinner, simply someone who has been misguided by a book, a man and a painting.

When it was written this book attracted a lot of negativity, with many saying it was full of sin, corruption and, basically, a load of codswallop. The interesting thing is, as big a part that sin makes up of this book's topic, a lot of Dorian's sins are never actually described or worded, simply insinuated. Today, however, in a world where sin is (supposedly) a lot more prevalent and (definitely) a lot more in-your-face, Dorian's sins seem less drastic, and this allows us to appreciate The Picture of Dorian Gray for what it is: a literary phenomenon.

I love it, and highly reccommend it to anyone.

PS. There's some interesting fashion/beauty references which would probably interest fashion-lovers.

What Amazon says:
A lush, cautionary tale of a life of vileness and deception or a loving portrait of the aesthetic impulse run rampant? Why not both? After Basil Hallward paints a beautiful, young man's portrait, his subject's frivolous wish that the picture change and he remain the same comes true. Dorian Gray's picture grows aged and corrupt while he continues to appear fresh and innocent. After he kills a young woman, "as surely as if I had cut her little throat with a knife," Dorian Gray is surprised to find no difference in his vision or surroundings. "The roses are not less lovely for all that. The birds sing just as happily in my garden."

As Hallward tries to make sense of his creation, his epigram-happy friend Lord Henry Wotton encourages Dorian in his sensual quest with any number of Wildean paradoxes, including the delightful "When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy." But despite its many languorous pleasures, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imperfect work. Compared to the two (voyeuristic) older men, Dorian is a bore, and his search for ever new sensations far less fun than the novel's drawing-room discussions. Even more oddly, the moral message of the novel contradicts many of Wilde's supposed aims, not least "no artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style." Nonetheless, the glamour boy gets his just deserts. And Wilde, defending Dorian Gray, had it both ways: "All excess, as well as all renunciation, brings its own punishment." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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