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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,600 ratings  ·  108 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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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,600 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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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
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
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
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 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
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
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 debauc
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-prizes
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.
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 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
Soumyabrata Sarkar
Filthy and ruthless, yet a chewily delicious regurgitation of Oscar Wilde's trailblazing story of Dorian Gray. Set in 80's with the AIDS threat thrown into the chaos of an outrageous artistic milieu; Self pays a grand homage to the evergreen wicked and twisted tale.
The picture is updated to a video installation here, triggering the parallel downward spiral into world of hedonism. The story follows a circle of amoral decadent men between London and NY, sticking together as years age them by, sar
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Mike Steven
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the few benefits of the Coronavirus restrictions is having the time to read during the day and not just a chapter in bed each night. This is the first of many books I expect to read over these next few weeks.

Reading Will Self is, at times, challenging. However, this is one of his best - not as good as The Book of Dave or Great Apes but not far off. I've had it on my shelf for some time as I wanted to read Wilde's original novel first and I'm glad I did, however, as long as you know the or
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Glass River
Jun 27, 2020 marked it as fic-guided
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Krystyna Kappel
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
If it wasn’t for the fact that I am a fan of Will Self’s writing, I probably would have never picked up a book that is a new version of Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Grey”, which has been and will always be my absolute number one. However, the combination of these two writers was intriguing enough... As expected, Self’s extremely provocative style put the well known story in a completely new perspective. Typical for his books, the ending is so unexpected - even for such well known story. I ha ...more
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, fiction
I enjoyed this modern retailing of Dorian Grey, although it's been so long since I've read the original, I don't remember him being quiet so murderous.

Most of the characters in this book are unlikeable, however I did feel sorry for Baz & Batface. From the cover alone, you wouldn't be able to tell this is a novel of sex, drugs & AIDS.

The ending was the most fucked up though because now I'm thoroughly confused and not sure what happened! At first when Batface give Dorian the manuscript, I felt l
Dan Squire
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought this book was okay, but didn't enjoy it that much. Took a while to get through it, in part because of the distractingly verbose language (not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make a bit of a slog unless you're willing to ignore that you don't understand some of the sentences and plow ahead). Interesting reframing of the classic Wilde novel, and the twist at the end (no spoilers) is the best part of the story. Not a bad book, but also not a great book either - wouldn't recommend it ...more
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you can get your hands on this book (which is incredibly difficult as I have worked out) I encourage you to read this novel, given you are an advanced reader as the book is certainly heavy. Will Self has done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Wilde's masterpiece, yet has revitalised it in the most vulgar way possible. I believe it is best to have read or at least have a good understanding of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' in order to appreciate Self's novel.
Beth Rawson
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Filthy and brutal. I enjoyed it immensely
Jim Seitz
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay-themed
the book oscar wilde might have written in the late 20th century, without censors.
Sean Fitzgerald
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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