Friday, August 22, 2014

The Picture of Dorian Gray (91st Book)

I decided to read Dorian Gray because a dear friend of mine who was coming to visit had just finished reading it and I wanted to have a good old fashioned face-to-face book discussion. I love my book blog, but nothing beats discussing a book with someone in person. I had seen the modern Dorian Gray book adaptation and like pretty much everyone in Western culture I had a vague idea of what the novel was about.

I am starting to get grumpy in my reading, but Dorian Gray is FINALLY a novel that deserved its reputation in history. It has something to say, it is a thoroughly engaging story and it was progressive for its time. And I am discovering most importantly...I enjoyed reading it!

My friend and I had a very good discussion about the book. She had bought a beautifully illustrated  copy of the original version of the novel which is quite different from the common version that most people read. Oscar Wilde received quite a a bit of flack for the original version which contained much more overt reference to the attraction and sexual obsession of Basil, the artist, to Dorian Gray. In the subsequent additions he toned it down. On the flip side my friend's version did not have the foreword which my novel had where Wilde insists that art should be art for art's sake. It emphasizes quite adamantly that if you look at a symbolic meaning in art, you do so at your own peril.

I am quite confused as to why the novel received flack for its racy content, because although the topics covered in the novel would be quite scandalous for their time the predominant message is that  the wonton things that Dorian Gray engaged in had an impact on his life. His vanity and carousing appeared on his portrait even though it did not manifest on his person. It is an extremely moral novel which shows that every action has a reaction to it.

When I was watching the film adaptation of the novel I was extremely saddened by the artist Basil who was obsessed with Dorian. His friend Lord Henry essential steals his prized possession out from under him and I was upset by the fact that Lord Henry was aware what Dorian meant to him. The novel version makes it clear, however, that Basil's extreme and obsessive love with Dorian lead to his own downfall and was  something that he regretted in the end.

This novel is extremely engaging. The story is interesting and fascinating and the plot movies quickly without bogging down. I enjoyed the whole experience of reading this book which is something I can't say for most of the books I have read lately. I am actually surprised that this book did not make the novel 100. I think when I finish this challenge and have a few more classics under my belt I will challenge myself to make a list of some of my favourite novels of all time.

I will end this blog with part of a quote that really stood out for me:

"The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion..."

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