Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh how I love this book. Wilde is able to make a scene come to life like no other writer of his day, a power uniquely suitable to the written word. As a playwright, this is his only novel, and what a novel. This is a book that is indeed "poisonous", a direct challenge to our morality. Witty, sharp, disturbing... This is a book that engages, makes one ask questions about previously unquestioned ethical principles. It remains as scandalous today as the day it was released to a shocked England. I cannot imagine a time when The Picture of Dorian Gray loses it's power to simultaneously hypnotize us with florescence while repelling us in the protagonists compelling fall (or was it a rise?) into narcissism.

Oscar Wilde's most famous quote is that "all art is quite useless", and I think this quote should be given some thought before one begins.

What is meant by useless? Useless as in didactic literature? No, that won't do because some of the canon is infused with what once gave instruction and now gives pleasure.

What is meant by art? From a man considered to be an immoral hedonistic dandy, one might imagine that to Oscar Wilde life was art. Perhaps this gives some understanding of his death-bed conversion. What a depressing thought though, because this is a work that makes no apologies, a work that flows as if called from the muse of old, a work that dominates the imagination like nothing else.

Dive in to this masterwork, because anything less than a plunge may give one cold feet.

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