The Picture of Dorian Gray
Around 250 pages
I have always thought that Oscar Wilde was hilarious and I often curse the gods that he was not alive during the Twitter era. But I wasn't entirely sure his quipping could support an entire novel, so I didn't pick this up until last October for a Halloween-themed read. Of course, it was brilliant, much better than my other "scary" reads (Wasp Factory and House of Leaves).
Dorian Gray is an empirical hottie so Basil Hallward insists on painting his oil portrait. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry, who is basically an Oscar Wilde stand in. My goodness, our authors are autobiographical lately. Keep your ego in your pants, gents. Anyway, the portrait is gorgeous, but it makes Dorian sad. Why should the portrait get to be beautiful forever while Dorian is going to age and die? Dorian wishes it was the other way around and some divine power grants his wish. I guess the gods only listen to tens.
Wilde is a phenomenal writer. He has a thousand witty truths to share about society and he weaves them smoothly into his Faustian tale, with the help of Lord Henry. The metaphors he uses are brilliant as well. Wilde, of course, had experience hiding his true self from the public so he writes Dorian in a way that is both chilling and relatable. I won't go into specifics so as not to give away any spoilers, but I feel like the murder scene is one of the most memorable passages in literature. That moment where you share your rawest self with someone ought to be a relief, but more often than not, the knowledge that somebody has seen you so vulnerable is unbearable. I imagine many of us would share Dorian's impulses...hopefully, we would resist.
I wish Wilde had been born in the current era, where he could be accepted and exalted as the shade king he was. But then we wouldn't have The Picture of Dorian Gray, and that would be a heavy loss indeed.
According to Oscar Wilde, "Basil Hallward is what I think I am, Lord Henry is what the world thinks of me, Dorian is what I would like to be, in other ages perhaps."
In honor of his sassmouth, I will now present my top five favorite Oscar Wilde quotes:
1. "A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally."
2. "It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either tedious or charming."
3. "You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you have never had the courage to commit."
4. "She is a peacock in everything but beauty."
5. "A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction."
UP NEXT: Tess of D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I devoured all the Hardy novels a while ago, but I'll probably hold off on posting the new review for awhile, for pacing purposes.