How's your relationship with classic literature? Mine's pretty rocky. Over the years I have read several books that I felt that I really should love, but just didn't. Nothing by any of the Bronte sisters appeals to me, much to my embarrassment.
So it was with some trepidation that I began The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I feared that I would find it dull, or difficult, or un-finishable.
Borrowed from my local public library.
The cover of the book that I borrowed from the library is extremely boring, so I've used a still from the recent movie adaptation.
So what's it all about? The "picture of Dorian Gray" has become a well-known idea in our culture, and is often used as a metaphor. Sometimes people are said to be like Dorian Gray, or it is wondered whether they have a portrait hiding in a closet somewhere. But what does it all mean?
Dorian Gray is a young, naive, beautiful, innocent boy. An artist paints a portrait of him, and all at once he is arrested by his own beauty. He laments the fact that he will gradually age and lose his looks. He wishes that his portait could do the aging for him, and that he could remain untouched and beautiful forever.
At the same time, Dorian strikes up a friendship with an older man, Lord Henry Wotton. "Harry" takes great delight in influencing and moulding Dorian's character, likes and dislikes, and opinions. He advocates sensuality, and decries morality. Bit by bit, Dorian does away with conscience, and embraces a life of style over substance and the pursuit of pleasure. As time goes on, Dorian's life descends into depravity, despair, madness and murder.
And that's basically the whole story. There's not really a whole lot of plot going on. And while I was keen to know what was going to happen, and how it would all play out, I would have liked a bit of subplot or some more expansion of other characters.
The writing is fabulous. Harry is deliciously wicked and ironic, and the dialogue and descriptions are wonderful. I must, however, be a bit uncouth, because I like to have a bit of action with my excellent writing.
Well worth a try, and I enjoyed it more than any of the "classics" that I have read.