Monday, June 04, 2007

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Project Gutenberg, though I read the Dover thrift edition. Also available in the 13-chapter form), tells of a young man, Dorian Gray, who, in a moment of whimsy wishes that he could remain ever young and handsome, while instead a portrait of him should bear the sorrows and age that he would suffer. This is, of course, exactly what happens.

I had been aware of The Picture of Dorian Gray for some time, probably since before the 2003 movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I became interested in the movie's portrayal of Dorian Gray's curse, and so, some time ago, I bought the book to read it for myself. I finished it yesterday, and I'm not as happy with it as I'd like.

I don't really care for extended descriptions, which the novel had in abundance, nor for tangents with little bearing on the story. The novel was too long for what it covered, and put too much irrelevancies forth that belong somewhere else (although, there were occasional quips that I enjoyed). I think I'm glad I haven't read anything else by Wilde; I'd be bored practically to tears.

Nevertheless, the plot and characterization of the novel were good, although any suspense was killed by the long descriptive passages. I wonder whether the shorter version is any better, but I suspect that the additional material added more to plot and substance than otherwise.

So, if you like lots of descriptive prose, then read The Picture of Dorian Gray, and maybe if you think you need to complete your yearly Classic Literature quota, but otherwise, I'd steer clear.
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