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Dorian

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,214 Ratings  ·  94 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,218)
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Antonomasia
Jul 31, 2014 Antonomasia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: a will-o-the-wisp
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
Dusty Myers
Sep 24, 2008 Dusty Myers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing
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
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard
Sep 27, 2009 Hannah Eiseman-Renyard rated it really liked it
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 debauche
...more
Doug
Jul 28, 2016 Doug rated it liked it
This was longlisted for the Booker back in 2002, so in some respects I read it as preparation for this year's Booker marathon. Also, it seemed an interesting premise - it reminded me that back in 1970 there was a filmic 'modern' update on the Dorian Gray story that also didn't quite come off, starring German slab of beef Helmut Berger in his prime. Anyway, I am of two minds with this, my first (and possibly last) Will Self tome. The lapidary prose is incredible, although perhaps not QUITE up to ...more
Jackie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan
Mar 29, 2011 Nathan rated it did not like it
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
Apr 19, 2007 Cazzie rated it really liked it
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
Sep 04, 2014 Jamie Marks rated it it was ok
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.
Sophia
Aug 13, 2016 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Dorian, Dorian... After reading you back and forth, after taking you apart and putting back together, having been observing you for more than a year, and still you surprise me.. Or at least your fraternal twin did.
I don't know why i haven't heared of the existence of a Dorian Gray 'remake', but I knew i had to read it ( after all, he was the subject of my BA thesis) but it was a bit harder (=slower) than I expexted.
In the beginning i had a few excuses; it did feel weird, however, once i let
...more
Tatiana
Sep 18, 2010 Tatiana rated it it was amazing
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
Emmett
Feb 19, 2016 Emmett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A wicked and very satisfying homage. Twisted, clever and tongue-in-cheek, it goes beyond reproducing a classic work, adding fresh detail and essentially enacting its rebirth in new times. Self's sense of humour is to die for, as is his ice-water plunge of Wilde's highly ornate novel into a squalid realism.
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
Simon Pressinger
Apr 21, 2015 Simon Pressinger rated it liked it
First, a confession. I have yet to read 'A Picture of Dorian Grey', and indeed I have little doubt that if I had, then my reading of Will Self's modern reboot will have been a little richer / better informed in regards to character and story at the very least.

So, to keep things short and sweet, I liked 'Dorian'. Fleshing out a culture of hard-drug use and homo-eroticism, Will Self takes us on a terrifyingly intimate journey through the hedonistic 1980s and 90s counter-culture, as seen through th
...more
Jordy
Jan 23, 2016 Jordy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First read of the year and I don't know how to feel...
Li
Sep 07, 2007 Li rated it it was ok
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
Belle Wood
Nov 29, 2014 Belle Wood rated it really liked it
Will Self is very literary. In a good way. His handling of language, his twisting of phrases makes you fall in love with words, not just with the stories. SO, we will forgive him for twisting ol' butch Oscar's tale of hidden vice to the gaucheness of the 80s. It's cool, really it is, but there is absolutely nothing here that you don't already know, having read it in an English lit class in high school. So look at the story as more of a platter that carries his words and phrases, because that is ...more
David Llewellyn
May 18, 2014 David Llewellyn rated it it was amazing
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
Eveno Jehanne
Feb 24, 2016 Eveno Jehanne rated it it was ok
I found this rewriting of The Picture of Dorian Gray too brutal and violent but extremely satisfying in terms of breaking off expectations. Though its adaptation to the gay scene of the 1980s and 1990s is very interesting, the violence of the depictions did not work for me. The epilogue reconciled me with the novel at first but the very end lost me completely and it was perhaps, one volte-face too much for me. But I would recommend it to anyone interested in postmodernist writings, an authentic ...more
Daniella
Aug 25, 2014 Daniella rated it liked it
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
MJ Nicholls
Clever, twisted and stunning.
Kelly Beestone
Jul 07, 2016 Kelly Beestone rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jack Rondeau
Jun 10, 2016 Jack Rondeau rated it really liked it
This modern adaptation of; The Picture of Dorian Gray is successful in retaining the same outrageous shock factor that astounded so many readers of Wilde's original version of the novel in 1891.
The novel, set a century later that the original, is responsible for changing the locations and events in the novel, whilst maintaining the same message as the original. Self includes extremely vivid descriptions of the characters indulgences in acts varying from the injecting of heroin to the engagement
...more
Jennifer L.
Oct 17, 2013 Jennifer L. rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, hiv-aids
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
Jul 11, 2015 Liam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c21st
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
Jo Everett
Aug 19, 2015 Jo Everett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took a few chapters to get into, but once I'd connected with the characters I really enjoyed it. Although I couldn't relate much the characters and their world, Self explores universal themes such as ageing, self-consciousness and identity that provide a way into the world of 'Dorian'. This was a realist novel touching on issues of homosexuality and the Aids virus. The story also draws from Oscar Wilde's 'Dorian Grey', almost updating the story but equally weaving an original narrative ...more
Oliver
Jun 15, 2014 Oliver rated it liked it
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.
Ashlin
Jan 11, 2015 Ashlin rated it liked it
I love the idea of this rendition of Dorian, but it didn't quite follow through and live up to the hype for me. It followed the story pretty closely, but was much too exaggerated. One reason I loved Wilde's version, is that he left so much to be interpreted. Self alternated between beautiful, aesthetic writing and overly explicit writing which made the book choppy and not flow well.
Lucie
Feb 28, 2008 Lucie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 29, 2012 D.M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.
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“An English gentleman never shines his shoes, but then nor does a lazy bastard.” 38 likes
“The only circumstances in which I would write a roman a clef would be if I'd lost my fucking car keys.” 2 likes
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