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Dorian

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,406 Ratings  ·  98 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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Hugh
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book from the 2002 Booker longlist, this is a book full of surprises. It is basically an updated version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, starting in 1981 and finishing in 1997. For much of the book Self mirrors the original narrative, though his wit is more heavy-handed than Wilde's and his excesses are more extreme. He is never able to resist showing off his knowledge of linguistic obscurities, peppers the book with a huge range of both high and low brow references, and he ...more
Antonomasia
Jun 07, 2014 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 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 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
Val
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookers
Dorian is a good-looking, immoral young man who takes quite a lot of drugs, has unprotected sex with men and women and takes risks. He is one of a group of similarly decadent people, but as they get older and sicker, he seems untouched by his lifestyle. He is also the subject of a video installation.
Will Self has retold Oscar Wilde's story The Picture of Dorian Gray in a more modern setting, with Aids as a constant threat and he has done so brilliantly.
Nathan
Mar 29, 2011 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
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard
Sep 20, 2009 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
Jackie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Doug
Jun 30, 2016 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
Sophia
May 07, 2016 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
Cazzie
Apr 19, 2007 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
Tatiana
Aug 30, 2010 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
Michael
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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 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
Emmett
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jamie Marks
Sep 04, 2014 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.
Jordy
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First read of the year and I don't know how to feel...
MJ Nicholls
Clever, twisted and stunning.
Patrick Barrett
Dorian: an I. is set in a rich and dissolute world that is quite well evoked but is obviously at the same time largely derivative, and it then narrows its perspective much more quickly than an admirer of Wilde's P of D G might hope. The substances, proclivities, and media that contribute to this narrowing and moral descent are never examined or explored to the extent that a writer as good as Will Self could (and Huysmans and perhaps Proust did), and so in the end the novel is disappointing. I ha ...more
Adam
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this was my first Self, I have no idea if he's really a postmodern pastiche of Wilde or if he's just role-playing through the prose here. I was skeptical of the premise but it's handled deftly and works quite well. Even the contemporary tie-in to AIDS awareness comes off without any sermonizing or clunky efforts to be "relevant." Since the conundrums of narcissism, identity, art, guilt, virtue and vice are timeless, they might as well be refashioned after a time. Wilde himself unironically ...more
Hayden
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: university, read-2017
'The Picture of Dorian Grey' but set in the 1980s - darker and grittier, with more drugs, more sex, and a lot more gay. I don't know what else you want in a novel to be honest?!
Liam
Jan 31, 2013 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
Kelly Beestone
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer Collins
Sep 13, 2013 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
Jack Rondeau
Apr 15, 2016 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
Belle Wood
Nov 29, 2014 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
Lucie
Feb 19, 2008 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 11, 2012 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
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
David Llewellyn
May 18, 2014 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
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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

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“An English gentleman never shines his shoes, but then nor does a lazy bastard.” 36 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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