Dorian
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Dorian

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  937 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Will Self's DORIAN is a "shameless imitation" of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray that reimagines the novel in the milieu of London's early-80s art scene, which for liberated homosexuals were a golden era of sex, drugs and decadence before the AIDS epidemic struck later in the decade. It is "an age in which appearances matter more and more and more. Only the shallo...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 20th 2004 by Grove Press (first published September 26th 2002)
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Epigonesia by Kane X. FaucherDorian by Will SelfWas by Geoff RymanThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan MooreWolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
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2nd out of 6 books — 3 voters
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom StoppardThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyPygmalion by George Bernard ShawFaust by Johann Wolfgang von GoetheThe Hours by Michael Cunningham
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Community Reviews

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Dusty Myers
Self's title here works two ways. His Dorian is an imitation of Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray, and Self's Dorian Gray, which is to say his hero, is an imitation of whatever he needs to be, given the situation at hand. Numerous times the narrator refers to this man as a chameleon, and indeed there's something far more sinister about this Dorian than Wilde's.

Self has updated the story to AIDS-era Britain. Instead of a picture, Dorian is reproduced as Cathode Narcissus, a nine-monitor video insta...more
R.
Aug 09, 2007 R. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2004
My addiction to Self began here; an interlibrary loan that, afterwards, I foisted upon Melanie with a fever.

"Oh, man, unreliable narrators! You should...you gotta...oh, man...just...just read!"

It brings to mind the taste of tuna melts and fries at Swarthmore's (secondary) cafeteria, as I discussed my amazement with the sustained wordplay, the in-your-face use of big, eldritch words.

Melanie listened patiently, probably feeling a bit sad for me that I'd never been out of my literary gutters befor...more
Antonomasia
Sacreligiously, I prefer this to Wilde's original. And I greatly prefer it to any of Will Self's other fiction I've read. (Always been a big fan of his non-fiction, the stories less so.) I doubt I'll ever read a better re-write of a classic - those things are not known even for being good, but this is superlative.

Such profusion and richness of language as Self uses is a precarious act - most people can't get away with their attempts at this, making a long series of risible pratfalls as can be se...more
Jackie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard
I Liked this Better Than the Original

A literary re-write is a difficult thing to do well, but Will Self does it. I think Self works better within the restraints of this form,(versus his bloated books The Butt or The Book of Dave) and the new twists Self adds to the tale work wonders.

There is no one picture - there is a modern art installation of multiple videos of Dorian - and he has to track down and hide each and every one - adding to the drama which was missing in the original. The debauched...more
Nathan
Oscar Wilde: foppish aesthete. Limp-wristed intelligence with prepared wit, language so ethereal that it's like being smothered in a bed of marshmallow clouds. Famous book: Picture of Dorian Gray, about a man who sells his soul to stay forever young and debauch.

Will Self took that and has written a novel inspired by Picture of Dorian Gray, about drug use, gay sex, and ... well, actually, I never got to the point where the plot starts. By page 50, I was still struggling my way through hard jagged...more
Cazzie
Wonderful re-inventing of Oscar Wilde's classic 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' Set in hedonistic 1980/90's London and New York, this is the tale Wilde would have told if he'd been born in 1969. Dorian is the subject of a video installation by artist Baz Hallward, and as with the portrait in Wilde's original, the video image ages instead of arrogant, beautiful Dorian. Set against the AIDS epidemic as it is, a large proportion of the characters have contracted the diesese towards the close of the ta...more
Jamie Marks
Dorian Gray meets 80's gay London, complete with the arrival of HIV. Clever premise, brutal interpersonal dealings--but Allan Hollinghurst captures users of other people in 80's gay London so much better in The Line of Beauty--Hollinghurst is the one to read.
Tatiana
terrific, fantastic, outrageous and exciting re-reading of WIlde's Portrait!! Up-to-date, Dorian-- is nowadays a proeminent figure of gay, AIDS-plagued, artistic milieu, and the novel turns out to portray sarcastically the world we live in. Such wit in delineating Henry Wotton, superb explorations of London in Wotton's jaguar!!! The pervading cynicism is matched with a style that conveys with lavishness the inner rottennes of the characters. We cannot but laugh and/or shrug when reading the "exp...more
Michael William West
It's like stuffing your face with literature. I can only summon myself once a year or so to a whole Will Self book. I don't really know how to review this without resorting to tepid adjectives like 'audacious'. It's not really that anyway, because the boldness is unsurprising. It seems, as I remember it, slightly more relevant now than it was upon publication ten years ago, not that there's any hint of foresight necessarily, more the direct recognition of dysfunctional human repetition. Cathode...more
Li
Sep 07, 2007 Li rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people that like trainspotting
I learned that I should probably read the original as well. This one is interesting because it is written with accents and isn't apologetic ....at all my first instinct is todefinetly not like it but that is only because it is hard to find a character to sympathize with when all the guys (gay) in the book hate women but I think I need to look deeper
David Llewellyn
Until I read Will Self's take on Dorian, I hadn't read Oscar Wilde's original. Of course I knew the story, and had seen the film, but mid way through reading this book I took a walk on the Wilde side.
It has to be said, I think Will Self has done himself and Oscar Wilde a wonderful service by updating the tale. The original is dated - dreadfully dated - not to mean any discredit to Wilde who no doubt would have produced something far more salacious without the bonds of censorship. But Self serve...more
Daniella
I wasn't too big a fan of this book, but I must admit I had already pretty much decided beforehand that I wasn't going to be, so that may have influenced my opinion. Up until the epilogue, the book was pretty much what I expected, lots of sex, drugs and debauchery resulting in HIV-AIDS for most of the characters, with the exception of Dorian. Only in the epilogue it received an interesting twist, with an ending that mixes up several options and leaves the reader wondering. Not my favourite but i...more
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Self's re-styling of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray moves on a heavy under-current of shock, but considering the treatment, that might be appropriate. Full of grotesques and satire, along with plenty of descriptions just as dark as they are humorous, the novel rewrites the idea of Dorian onto a society already punctured by overindulgence in drugs, alcohol, and sex. Played out in the years when AIDS is just becoming known, the novel's focus becomes a trajectory of declining grotesques who eit...more
Liam
I myself have only one virtue - I hate every little thing and all big ideas. I loathe the so-called "art" of the twentieth century with a particularly rare and hearty passion. Would all that paint, canvas, plaster, stone and bronze be balled up and tossed into that fraud Duchamp's pissoir. With a few notable exceptions - Balthus, Bacon, Modigliani - the artists of this era have been in headlong flight from beauty or any meaningful representation of the human form. Were Basil Hallward's video of
...more
Oliver
A very sexualised and gritty take on oscar Wildes Picture of Dorian grey" which I guess is to be expected from Will Self. He's certainly not shy when he comes to showing the worts and all of 80's gay culture. Overall I did enjoy the book although when your not shocked by one characters actions your heartbroken by enough so in that respects it's a tough read but I did enjoy it, I'm sure Oscar would be proud.
Gareth Griffiths
I picked this up from the library after enjoying Quantity Theory Of Insanity.

While Self's prose is well-written, Dorian lacks the playfully intelligent concepts found in the short stories of the Quantity Theory. On the contrary for a novel about unrestrained hedonism I found it to be tedious with little to recommend it until the Epilogue.
Lucie
I like books and films about gays. Not ones about self-hating gays that struggle with a coming out and find it hard to cope with the burden of life, people who think they will never be understood by their family etc. etc. Grow some balls. I like books about flamboyant gays who embrace it, whose idea of fun is sex, drugs and sex - and money. I like books about reckless people who know how to use, misuse and abuse others in any way and enjoy it immensely. And I like sarcasm, lots. This book is pac...more
D.M.
Not what I would call one of Self's best books, but quite a lot better than the last one I read (Walking To Hollywood). Of course, this is years old, and has the benefit of following an already established narrative structure, but Self managed to put his own twisted spin on Wilde's classic tale. He attempts to make Gray some kind of allegory for AIDS or gay culture, but I'm not sure it really comes off (i.e., I don't quite get it). His characterization, however, is fun and he does a nice updated...more
Ivana de Bona
I just couldn't make myself finish it. It was kinda boring, overwhelming in a bad way...

I just feel bad for not liking this book.
Ben Cooke
Really good, interesting working on a classic book. The contemporary setting and locations in this book make it really interesting. As a young, adopted londoner I found the book captivating not only for the main plot but also for the interesting history regarding the AIDS virus in London. At the time I read this I was actually working off Goodge Street and used to go past the hospital mentioned in the book everyday (though it has now been demolished). I came across this book after meeting Self a...more
Kathleen
This book is hilarious, and all the jokes are SO dark and fiendish-- This book is drugs and sex and glamorous people in the world's hottest cities, and this book is a different look at all the themes that are in Oscar Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Grey", of Narcissism and questions of identity, youth and beauty and the immortalization of self through image. Also of the inner hideousness that can lurk behind outward displays of beauty, and how appeal can become abuse. But I was seriously laughing at...more
James
I was a bit reluctant to give this a try, since remakes are seldom as good as the original.(Gus Van Sant's "Psycho," anyone?) But since I've enjoyed Self's non-fiction, I thought this might be a good way to dip my toe into his fiction.

It's a hilarious, clever, bawdy, and bitchy book. It was a quick read, but I might've finished it even faster had I not been savoring Self's lapidary prose, and stopping every few minutes to jot down delicious words and phrases.

There's plenty in here to offend som...more
Eleanor
I’ve read some reviews that compare Dorian unfavorably to the original, but I read The Picture of Dorian Gray as a teenager, and I remember thinking that the allegory or closeted homosexuality would have made a better short story. I found Self’s version hilarious, unforgivingly satirical and actually kind of touching. I saw Self read from Dorian at a book store in San Francisco, and I got the distinct impression that Henry, the narrator and nominal writer of most of the book, was a sort of Will...more
Amadei
I really don't think this book is for everyone--for example, I would never pass this one along to my father to read. The descriptions Self gives of drug use and homosexual acts are vivid and unapologetic. It doesn't matter if you feel uncomfortable reading them; in fact, that might be the point.

I don't know much of anything about the gay community of the 1980s and 90s, so my critique of those pieces would be shallow to say the least. I do think that Self made some interesting points about the st...more
Naomi Davey
The Picture of Dorian Gray is my absolute favourite book so I was both excited and a little wary to see how this book would firstly, interpret the original story and secondly, live up to such a perfect original novel. I really enjoyed the grittiness of this story and as much as some parts shocked and even disturbed me, they also compelled me to continue reading. I found the ending a little hard to grapple with, but apart from that I found it to be a very engaging book. I look forward to reading...more
Katie Muffett
Feb 13, 2009 Katie Muffett rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone not too squeamish about disease and dissolution
Hurrah for Will Self being alive. Bought this as soon as it came out, and devoured it in three sittings (stupid job got in the way). As with the classic, you can *smell* this book. Basil's garden, Dorian's hair, the stink of London alleyways. If anything, the 1980s Dorian is more seductive and repulsive than the canon. Perhaps because no other decade in the history of time was as revolting as the 1980s.

As graphic as Wilde would probably have like to have been - this is an exquisite imitation.
Anthea
I'm unsure on how i feel about this book. I don't know if this is a disgrace to the original The Picture of Dorian Gray or a good adaption of the modern world.

It took my awhile to get into the plot. I have to say the representation of Henry Wotton and Dorian Gray were pretty accurate. While it may be good, this book is too dark and graphic for my liking though.
Julie
Dorian Gray, welcome to the present! I wasn't the biggest fan of the original, and while this version was intriguing, it's not the type of book I usually read. It captured the general foppishness of the original, while bringing in some modern elements, like Princess Diana and AIDs. Also a modern feature that you don't see in the classics is a trippy ending that I'm not looking too deeply into.
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William Self is an English novelist, reviewer and columnist. He received his education at University College School, Christ's College Finchley, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is married to journalist Deborah Orr.

Self is known for his satirical, grotesque and fantastic novels and short stories set in seemingly parallel universes.
More about Will Self...
Great Apes The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future How the Dead Live The Quantity Theory of Insanity My Idea of Fun

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