The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
When I read it: March 2015
Genres: classics; horror; gothic; fantasy(ish)
Recommended for: Ok, honestly, I recommend this to most people. If you’re looking for an entertaining and witty classic (or non-classic) that’s a bit weird and sometimes unsettling, with wonderful writing, read this.
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What it’s about:
Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, his dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged; petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral; while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying, enchanting, obsessing, even corrupting readers for more than a hundred years.
Taking the reader in and out of London drawing rooms, to the heights of aestheticism, and to the depths of decadence, The Picture of Dorian Gray is not only a melodrama about moral corruption. Laced with bon mots and vivid depictions of upper-class refinement, it is also a fascinating look at the milieu of Wilde’s fin-de-siècle world and a manifesto of the creed “Art for Art’s Sake.”
This was the first thing I read by Oscar Wilde (I’ve still only read one of his plays), and if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t expect much. I knew before I read it that I liked Oscar Wilde. I quote him a lot, and I’m a little obsessed. But I didn’t know what to expect from his writing, and I somehow didn’t really know much about Dorian Gray before I read this. I hadn’t seen any adaptations, so I managed to go into this knowing “painting that might grant immortality or something,” and that was it.
This was so much more, though! The writing sucked me in way faster than classics usually do (even my other favorites), and it was so beautifully written. Like, it was almost painfully enjoyable to read. ~swoons~
I didn’t see the end coming (major points, because I have a horrible habit of seeing the ending of books coming from early on), and I’m pretty sure my book actually fell out of my hands as I sat, mouth agape, probably not breathing, for a solid 30 seconds after I finished reading. When I finally came to my senses and retrieved the book from the floor, it took a lot of restraint to keep from diving immediately back in to see what I would get out of it a second time through.
I still haven’t re-read it, but I think I might later this year because it was so good. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I swoon just a little every time I see a pretty copy. I think there might come a time when I end up collecting an entire shelf of nothing but different editions of this book, because I can see myself re-reading it as often as I’ve always re-read Harry Potter. And that’s saying something.
If you want to read classics, but you don’t have much experience with them and aren’t sure where to start, this is a good choice I think. It was written (or at least published) in 1890, so it isn’t super old and difficult to follow. The humor carries through easily to modern readers, in my opinion, and Wilde’s writing is delightful to read.
Ok, I have to stop babbling about this book or I’ll never stop :p
Have you read any of Wilde’s work? What’s your favorite?