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The Picture of Dorian Gray
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Monthly Reads > The Picture of Dorian Gray - A Book

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message 1: by Zeljka (last edited Oct 25, 2012 01:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zeljka (ZTook) | 2002 comments Mod
The Picture of Dorian Gray  by Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

Although widely appreciated today, the star of this book club for both The Canterville Ghost and The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde at his time had a couple of clashes with his fellow contemporaries. The only novel he has ever published, had to endure some revisions due to the delicacy of his publishers and supposedly the ladies who would read the book. The passage from Wikipedia might explain this better:

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in "Lippincott's Monthly Magazine" on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine. The magazine's editors feared the story was indecent as submitted, so they censored roughly 500 words, without Wilde's knowledge, before publication. Even still, the story was greeted with outrage by British reviewers, some of whom suggested that Wilde should be prosecuted on moral grounds, leading Wilde to defend the novel aggressively in letters to the British press. Wilde later revised the story for book publication, making substantial alterations, deleting controversial passages, adding new chapters and including an aphoristic Preface which has since become famous in its own right.

For those interested, more details on publication history may be read further on here.

As book is today in public domain, it is obtainable everywhere, mostly at reasonable prices. Luckily for those IT adapted and for those who are very attached to their dead tree editions (for marking quotes and other stuff), book is also available in many electronic editions for free -- Gutenberg, Manybooks, Kindle, Nook, etc. If you have plain old nondescript mobile phone like I do, I would recommend free Feedbooks epub and mobi editions, which look rather nice.

That would be all for an introduction - if we say more, we would say too much. If willing to get more food for the mind before heading straight to this discussion, after reading the novel, you may take a look at University of Iowa site. It posted some very interesting (and helpful) questions and topics for discussion. If you have some other links to share, don't hesitate, I believe we would all be interested to see them :)

P.S. Please, movies and their comparisons with the book discuss in the other thread opened here.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 718 comments Mod
I'm curious, is there a copy of the original available somewhere? Which version is printed standard today, the original published form (with the alterations made without Wilde's knowledge) or a later version after his revisions? Was he able to add anything back? I personally liked it, even though it is very dark and disturbing, but I think today we are much more open to reading dark and distburing things that make us question our way of thinking. Not so much in the couple of centuries preceeding.

message 3: by Antonvt (last edited Oct 25, 2012 01:18PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Antonvt (Riverclover) | 5 comments The version most readily available is one that was revised by Wilde a year after the story was published in Lippincott's Monthly magazine. This version was actually changed by Wilde himself in response to the criticism relating to original published story. He made even more substantial changes than the editors of the magazine.

Last year, a new edition of the novel was published. It was edited by Nicholas Frankel, an English professor from Virginia. It claimed to be the 'Annotated, Uncensored Edition'. However, the was some controversy about it.

Refer to the article in The Guardian about it:

Zeljka (ZTook) | 2002 comments Mod
I was wondering just the same - what version do we actually read today, what were these alterations and would the other version be better than that one we (have) read.

Great article, Anton! Now we have some answers :)

It made me think however, would really Wilde like us to read that original version? (I would, but that's irrelevant ;) I mean, no author would make alterations to the worse than the original. He could have been stubborn and not change a bit of the novel. But from his other works we know he was very crafty with words, and he could easily go around the censorship (obviously) without losing any artistic quality of the story he wanted to convey, which he did at last. I hope this makes sense. Again, I would anyway like to read that uncensored version.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn't even know there were different versions.
I have to have the uncensored one asap :)

message 6: by Tai (new)

Tai (Poetress) | 19 comments What was the conclusion to the version that was chosen. Im not familiar with any version.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 718 comments Mod
I don't think the overall story is effected by which version you read, the outcome will be the same. Some details may just be described a little differently.

message 8: by William (new)

William In her comment about the film, Elizabeth said, "I thought the novel felt more like a theater play on paper."

Interesting! I wonder if there is a scholarly examination of the reason why Wilde cast DG as a novel rather than as a stage play? The Guardian article speaks of "the homoerotic nature of artist Basil Hallward's feelings for Dorian Gray" in Wilde's original text. Did Wilde perhaps feel he could deal more explicitly with this in a novel than in a stage play? Has anyone looked into this?

message 9: by Evren (new)

Evren I think I know why he wrote it as a novel rather than a stage play. If we look at his plays we see a kind of mockery. They all have "pink" happy endings. Most probably the were written to be staged often and entertain people which would pay good. However in DG he wanted to write a mysterious horror story and most probably he wanted to talk about one of his own shadows and dark side. I think he wrote DG as a master piece and only for himself.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Just got the e-book for this one. Too bad I don't have an e-reader and will have to read it on my I-pod. I expect headaches. Nonetheless, I am very excited for this one. I never even heard of it till now and it seems great. Happy reading everyone <3

message 11: by Tai (new)

Tai (Poetress) | 19 comments You are not alone Jamnetty. I too am unfamiliar with the book. And I have to read it from my phone. But its not an issue there is the option to expand the font. Enjoy your read.

Richard | 5 comments Just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray and I find myself conflicted. Taking the novel in its historical context I appreciate the wit and finesse of Oscar Wilde’s writing. It is definitely, as Evren said, a masterpiece. But as a contemporary reader, he comes across as an author in need of an editor. Line after line of dialogue sounded like witty little proverbs rather than real people having real conversations. Most of the philosophical meanderings here are presented as dualities, (death and immortality, ugliness and beauty, love of self or others, sin and virtue, good and evil, upper class and the lower classes). Some will find it interesting and engaging. Personally I find most of them to be false dualities. If only life were so simple as good vs. evil. (I'm more of a both/and than an either/or type, which is probably why it didn't resonate for me.) Of course I’m not being fair making judgements about a 19th century work. In its time I imagine it had quite a bit of traction with readers. But for this 21st century reader, it might comes across as a bit more melodramatic than I think Wilde intended.

I think the story would be fun as a play or a period piece on Masterpiece Theater, but as a read, I found it a bit of a slog. The main plot point doesn’t happen until about page eighty. I haven’t seen one of the movie versions of the novel in many years, but I do think this is a case where a screenplay would by necessity edit out all of the extraneous bits and leave the essence of great story. So I’d give it three stars. Great concept, interesting characters, nice climax and denouement, but the pacing is a bit slow and the dialogue a bit self-consciously witty to the point it gets in the way of moving the plot forward.

Elena | 108 comments Richard - i agree with you completely. This is one of those extremely rare times when the movie is better than the book, mostly because it cuts out all the "random" and unnecessary tidbits. The bottom line is that the story itself is very good (especially considering when it was written!).

message 14: by Satu (new) - rated it 2 stars

Satu | 32 comments Most old novels read like that to me. Very tedious work to get through a book like Dorian Gray..
The story is good, magnificent idea. But the execution takes a lot out of it for me.
Oh to be alive in 1890 and to be outraged by a novel.

The most gripping thing in the story was definitely the painting, how it changed as Dorian drudged deeper into the swamp of wicked deeds.

Alana (alanasbooks) | 718 comments Mod
I think back in the day people didn't have TV and there were fewer books, so people had more time to read those tedious sections ;-)

message 16: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Quick | 3 comments Just started and hoping to make it through, so far a slow start, but only on chapter one.

Svevida | 12 comments Richard wrote: "... Line after line of dialogue sounded like witty little proverbs rather than real people having real conversations..."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Wild was a devoted cynic and he took every opportunity to mock everything and everyone, or just to show the world's ugly side, although not always directly. So, he played with words and made dialogs like a man who plays chess with himself. This kind of writing is indeed ideal for plays and theatrics of the stage.

Sometimes while reading what he wrote I could almost imagine him contemplating the readers' reactions more than thinking about finding the best way to make us really breathless while reading his story. Like he never expected to have more demanding readers, equall to him or above in intelligence, education and taste.

On the other hand, I respect his originality and influence he made on future writers.

Richard | 5 comments I don't know for certain, but I'll bet he's the most quoted author, other than Shakespeare, of all time.

message 19: by Marci (last edited Nov 16, 2012 07:55AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marci Mac (MarciMac) | 7 comments I just finished reading the book last night.

I am conflicted with what to think about it because going into an old novel, I feel that I always have to give it some kind of handicap. I learned the long and hard way during my first classic, Pride and Prejudice, that scandal back then is far different from what it is now.

With that knowledge, I thought this book was good. The writing was abundant with dialogue and epigrams...not necessarily good or believable ones, but nonetheless entertaining to read. Lord Henry was either infuriating me or making me laugh every time he opened his mouth.

I found the beginning and ending of this story to be great, even without the handicap. But in the middle, I skimmed full pages when Wilde started going on tangents about Dorian's gem collection and the stories behind each stone.

The one thing I can't stop thinking about is what Wilde would have done with this work if sex and drugs weren't so taboo during his time. Most of it was alluded to and none of it described. I don't know if it would have made the novel better, but it would make the changing portrait easier to imagine and understand. I find it interesting, however, that though those two things were never directly mentioned, murder was something that was appropriate enough to describe.

message 20: by Dina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dina Goluza | 18 comments I've finished it. Good book. I am fond of Wilde's short stories and somehow this book is too long for me. I really enjoyed the first half of the book but then some parts of it were too long and a bit boring for me.

Claire Dobson I found it a very good, fast paced book at times but at others it just seemed to drag and achieve nothing. I do love his style of writing and settings however so gave the book 3 stars.

Kimberly | 5 comments Richard wrote: "I don't know for certain, but I'll bet he's the most quoted author, other than Shakespeare, of all time."

I agree...

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I found myself speed reading through some of the book. However i enjoyed it as a whole.

Zeljka (ZTook) | 2002 comments Mod
I've finished reading the book a few days ago. I agree with Marci regarding these details - they puzzled me as well, because Wilde didn't go so much in detail with any other passions Dorian had, just like Marci said, maybe because all the other passions were taboos in those days :)

As Svevida and Richard said, conversations in the book were more like witty proverbs, although all worth pondering over - I found myself highlighting almost every page until I at last gave up on that :) That actually disturbed me -- the power and influence each Wilde's sentence had. With some remarks I didn't agree, but couldn't really dismiss the truth in many of them.

What Lord Henry remarked in the book, I believe many were Wilde's own. However I think more that Wilde wanted to express that sentiment I felt -- how negative and passive stance toward the truth, about society's hypocrisy and false measures of one person's value, can be turned to poisonous influence, as Lord Henry had on Dorian Gray, when someone has no real self respect and sense of purpose.

Lord Henry didn't like the things as they were, but didn't really want to change them either, because they perfectly fitted his own schemes. Measuring himself to Lord Henry's ideas, Dorian thought he enjoyed life in full, but these enjoyments were false and superficial, as all what he did was done secretly and with no real impact, if we ignore dreadful "side effects" they had on others.

I wonder, are people really so different today? Although we talk about freedom of the speech and deeds (those legal ones :), we still unwillingly censor ourselves in front of any kind of audience. We still take pride in some things while in others not so eagerly, depending on who's listening. Let's not forget even that that what some consider good, others do not. Division of opinions about media's various influence on us is perfect example of that... Ugh, sorry, if this sounds way too preachy and a bit off-topic :/

In short, a decade or more after last reading, I still think this book is masterpiece. Not for every taste, certainly, as there was not much action going on in :) The moral was strong, although not always obvious, especially early in the story. Maybe I got it all wrong :) Maybe that doesn't matter - the impact it had, while I was reading it, was in any case immense.

Charity | 10 comments I've just finished reading it again, and while I enjoyed it, some of the detailed descriptions get to me. I mean dose the drapery in a room realy matter to the story? Still got to love it.

Elena | 108 comments I have just finished it for the second time - I initially read it many years ago... Yes, the flowery language got to me even more now than the first time around! Did people actually speak like that?! And all those witty and clever remarks that everyone has ready for every situation?! Did they teach that in school?!!? :)
Overall - I stand by my initial opinion that the idea was an amazing one, but the delivery of it was somewhat boring...

Charity | 10 comments If they still taught that in school I'd take make-up classes. ;}

Chandni (decembersdream) I first read this book back in 9th grade and I was mesmerized by it at the time. I thought Wilde was pithy and humorous. The entire book was just so quotable and I considered it my favourite book. After re-reading it, I found myself still loving it, but I saw it differently. I wasn't exactly mesmerized and a lot more aware of just how influential Lord Henry was to Dorian. I'd always seen the corruption, but I focused more intensely on it this time around. I was also struck by the homo-eroticism in the novel, which I totally missed as a 14 year old.

The vague references to Dorian's sordid dealings also infuriated me. I can't remember being frustrated by them as a teenager, but this time around, I really wished there was more detail given. Maybe I just have a more curious nature now than I did.

However, I still consider it my favourite book and Wilde one of the best writers I have come across. There just aren't that many eloquent writers these days and Wilde is a remnant of a time when people did know how to phrase things in such a way that you would remember them. I've got the Collected Works of Oscar Wilde on my bookshelf and I will be reading a lot more of his works!

Jeanne Zeljka wrote: "I've finished reading the book a few days ago. I agree with Marci regarding these details - they puzzled me as well, because Wilde didn't go so much in detail with any other passions Dorian had, ju..."

I have heard about the power of this book all of my reading life but had not read it till now. I finished it last weekend and as with most books and movies that I read/see, I need time to digest before commenting.

As I was reading I kept thinking how superficial these people were and a bit envious that life for the middle class seemed so much simpler than it is now as we brink on the edge of the fiscal cliff. Sheesh!

I live in Florida where billboards either advertise some attorney or a plastic surgeon. As I go through my 50s and watch the famous change their look I am saddened by the fact that no one is ever satisfied. This thought kept coming to me while I read the book. Was Dorian's true self the portrait or the image given to him through the admiration of others? Why did he become an addict to himself or rather his preferred image to himself. Why does the preferred image win out and kill the true self? That was a mind blower for me.

Vismay (Alienman) | 27 comments 3 star
To create a self-delusional character takes a genius. And indeed ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a literary masterpiece by the genius playwright Oscar Wilde. Well, there happens to be a lot many books that I ventured out in my nascent stage of reading (9th and 10th grade!), and this was one of them. You are a sort of an idealist when you are young. When I first read this book, I was deeply disturbed. I found the subject matter quite disturbing and the protagonist too cruel. Never before had I read any book in which the central character was so amoral and also that he used seemingly rational argument to stem down the pangs of conscience and as a result become the epitome of exquisite cruelty.
But now as I read this book again, I was totally prepared for it. I had braced myself up against the death of Sibyl Vane and the murder of Basil Hallward. I had braced myself up against the logical reasoning that Dorian immersed into. As you read in this edition of ‘The Picture…’ published by Collins, describing the novel in a succinct prose, they say, ‘Dorian Gray is a young and handsome man who becomes obsessed with the idea of beauty when he has his portrait painted. He makes a wish that he might remain forever youthful and that the portrait of him will age over time instead.
‘Soon after the wish is made he commits his first sin and discovers that the portrait has already begun to change in response to his amorality rather than to time passing. Gray realizes that he has license to do whatever he likes and so he does. Over the next couple of decades Gray commits all manner of sins, including murder, until the portrait has become a hideous visage. Yet, Gray himself has not changed in appearance since he made his wish. Eventually Gray becomes tormented by his own behavior and attacks the painting with a knife. He is found stabbed to death, while the painting is restored to its original appearance.’

But one must blame the person who is worthy of it. And no one is worthier of it than Lord Henry Wotton. Prince Paradox that he is, he charms and delights whosoever he converses with. But his slick talk influences impressionable Dorian deeply and hence we see his metamorphosis from a simple, self unconscious boy to an unconscionable Satan. And Lord Henry does that quite willingly! Indeed in one of the passages, he says of Dorian Gray, ‘…Talking to him was like playing upon an exquisite violin. He answered to every touch and thrill of the bow…There was something terribly enthralling in the exercise of influence. No other activity was like it. To project one’s soul into some gracious form, let it tarry there for a moment; to hear one’s own intellectual views echoed back to one with all the added music of passion and youth; to convey one’s temperament into another as though it was a subtle fluid or a strange perfume; there was a real joy in that – perhaps the most satisfying joy left to us in the age so limited and vulgar as our own, an age grossly carnal in its pleasures, and grossly common in its aim…’
In some other paragraph it is mentioned that, ‘…Lord Henry, who found an exquisite pleasure in playing on the lad’s unconscious egotism…’
Lord Henry calls this an inquiry in natural science (earlier traces of anthropology!!!), and throughout the book one gets a feeling that he is closely observing Dorian in a truly scientific manner. He even tries to defend himself, when he says, ‘The world goes to the altar on its own accord.’ But of course, the instigator doesn’t himself know how deep in shit his subject is.
Near the end, he utter fails to judge Dorian, when Dorian tries to confess that what if it was he who murdered Basil. Lord Henry simply laughs this off, thinking that it was impossible for someone like Dorian to commit a vulgar act like that.
This book is a memoir of the degradation of the soul much similar to a drop of ink in the bowl of water. That drop of ink is the seed of ‘youth’ that Lord Henry incepts in the mind of young Dorian.
It takes a classic to truly disturb you. Once again, I found that ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ disturbed me, inspite of my being ready for it.
You indeed love the richness of the prose. Each line sounds lyrical and Oscar Wilde indeed can be called ‘the Bard of 19th century’.
P.S.: Sad to read that people of his time didn’t accept him (he was gay).

Zeljka (ZTook) | 2002 comments Mod
Vismay wrote: "This book is a memoir of the degradation of the soul much similar to a drop of ink in the bowl of water. That drop of ink is the seed of ‘youth’ that Lord Henry incepts in the mind of young Dorian."

Superb remark, right on the spot! And great review, too :)

I agree, sad how people of those times, and there are certainly some today, while condemning his personal life and more provocative works like Dorian Gray and Salome, so resolutely ignore the fact that he had also written some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking fairy tales the world has seen.

message 32: by Agata Weronika (new)

Agata Weronika (Aqueda_Veronica) I've read the novel a few months ago and did enjoy it immensely.
Loved the dynamics between the characters; dialogues and the presentation of XIXth century London were marvelous. I can only join the voices of approval :-) Will be most definitely continuing my acquaintance with Oscar Wilde!

Vismay (Alienman) | 27 comments Zeljka wrote: "Vismay wrote: "This book is a memoir of the degradation of the soul much similar to a drop of ink in the bowl of water. That drop of ink is the seed of ‘youth’ that Lord Henry incepts in the mind o..."

absolutely Zeljka, because mediocrity in every age punishes the genius!!! More so a genius, who rightly considers them as shit!

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 129 comments Mod
As a book it is one of the great gothic classics that also has a really good message about avoiding living a selfish hedonistic lifestyle and what that really does to your internal soul. A painting, like the mirror, really is a good symbolic representation of a man's spirit in my view. Like how the vampires have none so they have no reflection I like how Dorian has an image which is fouler than he appears in reality.

Zeljka (ZTook) | 2002 comments Mod
Jonathan wrote: "A painting, like the mirror, really is a good symbolic representation of a man's spirit in my view. Like how the vampires have none so they have no reflection I like how Dorian has an image which is fouler than he appears in reality."

Really really good observation. Different aspect of man's mortality and soul, that with vampires, but all the same questions.

Margaret (PeggyNell) | 13 comments Just finished listening to the audiobook, excellently read by Simon Prebble. I had read this when I was in high school 50 years ago so it had been awhile :>). I loved all the remarks of Lord Henry and will go back to reread them. I did not feel that Dorian was to blame for the corruption of his friends and suicide of Sibyl Vane and Alan Campbell as they were responsible for their own actions as Dorian, and not Lord Henry, was surely responsible for his. I now want to see some movies of the story; I had seen a couple before but quite awhile ago.

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