I don’t know why I didn’t read this book ten years ago… or twenty years ago for that matter. I think the angsty, morose 14-year-old me who read Bronte and Stoker would have appreciated this. Very much. The adult me appreciated it immensely.
Dorian Gray is beautiful and rich and young. He sits for a portrait for the artist Basil Hallward, who captures his likeness incredibly. A friend of Basil’s, a Mr. Henry Wotton, lures the two into a seemingly harmless conversation about youth and beauty. During this exchange Dorian unknowingly makes an exchange with the devil – his soul for eternal youth. It is not until years later that he truly realizes the terrible conflict of this bargain. The picture takes on the characteristics that should be present in Dorian’s face; his aggression, his sins, and his hypocrisy. Dorian hates to look upon it and hides it away, but the image torments him from afar. He cannot escape himself.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a haunting and devastatingly beautiful book. The prose is lush and the story evocative. The reader finds no choice but to be swept up into the mind of Wilde and all of his decadence. This book is provocative and reeks of the human condition. It speaks of the corrupting power of excess and the futility of redemption. It’s a tremendous book.This is one of those books that hurt me to hit the end. It was so powerful I felt like a train coming to an abrupt and jarring stop. The thoughts in this book will stay with me for a long time.
It is really a shame that Oscar Wilde did not write more narrative prose. I can see how this book played heavily into his sodomy charges and trials (which ended up bankrupting and ruining him, causing him from writing more). The text is heavy with homo erotic themes which are beautiful in their poignancy. I can see how in a less tolerant time period (har har) that this book would have been looked upon as indecent. For me though the themes are just right and the words are absolutely soul stunning. I cannot even begin to articulate how much I loved this book. I think everyone should read it, gay or straight. I think everyone will get something heart wrenching out of it.
5 out of 5 stars.