I’m supposed to be doing my summer work, and out of the four ‘read-these-or-you-will-fail-English-Literature’ books, I haven’t completely read any of them. I tried to start Othello, but the problem with forcing Shakespeare to share a shelf with Duncan Macmillan/Euripides/Chekhov is that I get distracted even before I open the book.
Anyway, I’m pulling the double whammy by combining my thoughts on The Picture of Dorian Gray with a blog post. Multitasking at its finest.
I genuinely, really, like this novel. As this is the second read for me, it’s not so much for the story itself (although it’s an interesting one), but more for the different perspective on life that the characters present. I know that I’ll have to work hard, make money, be happy for a relatively short period of time, and then die. I won’t simply have the time for the hedonistic lifestyles of Dorian Gray and his companions, unless I marry an elderly billionaire, wait for him to kick the bucket, and then spend the remainder of his fortune on a London townhouse with a library.
Gray, Lord Henry et al seem to dedicate their lives to entertainment and the arts, the lucky sods. I barely have the money for a train ticket to see any form of art, let alone hire a troupe to play for me. They also seem to have a habit of learning words that I’ve never heard of before, meaning that I had to arm myself with a dictionary and the Plato Stanford website (a beautiful mine of philosophical essays, my heart sings whenever I use it) before I even began reading. I’ve heard that others who’ve read this have found it difficult, which is understandable because at times, it’s fairly heavy literary fiction. As you probably know, I’m into that kind of thing, and I’m head-over-heels in love with Oscar Wilde anyway. So as a warning: be prepared.
But please don’t let that deter you from reading it. The plot is still fantastic (let’s just say that portraiture has never been so alive), and it’s not a classic for nothing. (There are even plot twists! Cliff hangers! Killings! It’s like a more lavish, slightly camper murder mystery!) As well as its gripping nature, The Picture of Dorian Gray asks many questions about our lifestyles, pleasure, conscience, the effect of ourselves upon others, and how many toes can I break when I drop it on my foot.
The last question is only applicable if, like me, you prefer to spend your money on theatre tickets, instead of the correct edition for next year’s course. I’ve been lugging round The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde (plays, essays, stories, the lot), and have been sorely paid for my foolish prioritisation.
Seriously, read it. It’s Oscar Wilde’s only novel, so at the very least, do it to pay this wonderful man some respect and read the damned thing!
Have you read The Picture of Dorian Gray? Or even better, are you potentially in my Lit class next year and haven’t read it? Drop me a line!