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The Picture of Dorian Gray
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Group Reads - Fiction > The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Group Classics Read Feb/March '15)

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Leslie | 15985 comments The winner of the poll for our next group classics book is The Picture of Dorian Gray. As usual, this group classics read is for two months.

For those of you with e-readers, this novel is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from various websites. Project Gutenberg has it in German, Dutch, Finnish, French, and (of course) English. Librivox has free audiobook recordings in German and a few different versions in English including a dramatic reading.


esse (awalkineden) yaay cant wait :D


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Noah Bourdeu (noahbourdeu) Great! This title has been on my "To Read" list for too long, I can't wait! This will be my first Group Read, so I'm excited.


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LauraT (laurata) | 13495 comments Mod
Starting it monday or tuesday!


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I had remembered it as a novella, so was surprised when I checked to find that mine is 324 pages. So I did a bit of digging.

Apparently the first version was published in a magazine in 1890, but when it was published as a novel a year later, Oscar Wilde had made a lot of alterations, and added SIX chapters! The one I'm reading is the later one, with 20 chapters, plus the author made many minor alterations, often just of odd words.

These are the "extra" chapters:

3, 5, 15, 16, 17 and 18

I'm wondering if, when it's published as part of an anthology with shorter stories and poems, they use the first version. Which one are other people reading?


Leslie | 15985 comments My print copy is the longer one and I assume (and hope) that the audiobook I recently bought is too...

I didn't know this background, but it makes sense to me that Wilde would have written it first as a novella since he was accustomed to writing plays which are of a similar length as novellas.

Thanks for the info Jean :)


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I'll be getting my copy from the library tomorrow.


Katz Nancy from NJ (nancyk18) I read this book while I was in high scool and still have that copy on my saved shelves. I loved this book and have reread it several times.

Funny thing is that when I do something wrong and realize it, I often think there;s a portrait of me in our attic which is changing every day becoming more and more gruesome.


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) LOL Nancy!


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I read this book in university, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. I loved the Gothic mood, and found the concept of the portrait an intriguing one.


Katz Nancy from NJ (nancyk18) I know your laughing Jean but this is one of the reasons I never go up to our attic. I send my husband and I often wonder why he comes downstairs so pale.


Leslie | 15985 comments Nancy from NJ wrote: "I know your laughing Jean but this is one of the reasons I never go up to our attic. I send my husband and I often wonder why he comes downstairs so pale."

LOL!!


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I still suspect it's the spiders ...


Cathie (cathiebp2) | 653 comments Great gothic novel! Enjoy!


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I remember it being quite short. I think I might have read a shortened version but I'm not sure


message 16: by A.L. (new) - rated it 5 stars

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) ohh:)


message 17: by Alice (last edited Jan 30, 2015 01:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alice Poon (alice_poon) I read the 20-chapter version in an anthology. The additional chapters were important to the development of the story. Loved it!


Charbel (queez) | 2692 comments I will definitely be active in the discussion. I actually wrote an entire article in my uni paper about this book! It's one of my favourites!


Katz Nancy from NJ (nancyk18) Leslie wrote: "Nancy from NJ wrote: "I know your laughing Jean but this is one of the reasons I never go up to our attic. I send my husband and I often wonder why he comes downstairs so pale."

LOL!!"


And now I am LOL too!!!


Katz Nancy from NJ (nancyk18) Jean - for a city girl, I don't mind flies or spiders or much else of those pests but mice ............yuch!!!!


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Jean wrote: "I had remembered it as a novella, so was surprised when I checked to find that mine is 324 pages. So I did a bit of digging.

Apparently the first version was published in a magazine in 1890, but w..."


The edition I have is The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition. This book states that "the version of the novel that appears in this book follows Wilde's emended typescript; it represents the novel as Wilde envisioned it in the spring of 1890, before Stoddart began to work his way through the typescript with his pencil and before Wilde's later self-censorship of the novel, when he revised and enlarged it for Ward, Lock, and Company. The result is a more daring and scandalous novel, more explicit in its sexual content, and for that reason less content than either of the two subsequent published versions in adhering to Victorian conventions of of representation. The present edition marks the first time Wilde's typescript has been published, more that 120 years after its author submitted it to Lippincott's for publication--a fitting, timely embodiment of what Wilde meant when he confessed that Dorian Gray is 'what I would like to be----in other ages, perhaps.'"


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) You mean there's a third version Terri? Wow! How many chapters does that one have?


message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 01, 2015 06:58PM) (new)

Jean, the version I'm reading has 13 chapters. It does appear to be a 3rd version. There's a 37 page general introduction and a 26 page textual introduction and it's all a bit confusing. The actual text of the novel has extensive footnotes (for example, there are over 3 pages of footnotes for the first 3 paragraphs of the book). There are also appendices that document the changes made by Stoddard, and the text of Wilde's own preface to the 1891 version.


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Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Very intriguing Terri! I've read the book three times I think over the years, but I haven't read that version yet.


Charbel (queez) | 2692 comments Greg wrote: "Very intriguing Terri! I've read the book three times I think over the years, but I haven't read that version yet."

Same here. Although it does sound interesting to read Wilde's original version and see why it caused such a fuss.


Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 12133 comments Mod
I have read this a couple of years so I won't be re-reading it. However, I look forward to the discussion.


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Diana Raabe (dianaraabe) So the discussion starts March 15, 2015? Forgive my ignorance, but this is my first group read here. Thanks!


message 28: by Greg (last edited Feb 03, 2015 11:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Hi Diana, welcome!! I think when it says "Feb/March '15" it means we will officially read & discuss it from Feb 1 2015 to March 31 2015. You can begin commenting already!

If you are giving away major plot points, use the spoiler tags though. To use spoiler tags put the word spoiler between brackets < > at the beginning of what you're trying to hide. Put the word /spoiler at the end of what you're trying to hide also between brackets < >. Then whatever you type between the pairs of brackets will be hidden until someone clicks on it. That way if someone hasn't read as far as you, nothing will be given away for them. :)

Also, these threads never go away; so always feel free to comment on group reads after they've completed.


Leslie | 15985 comments Greg is absolutely correct -- feel free to comment as you read, rather than waiting until you finish, if something strikes you or you have a question.


Leslie | 15985 comments I had planned to wait until the end of Feb. to listen to this audiobook, but instead I started yesterday. So much for plans!

I had forgotten some of the details of Chap. 1. Basil's feelings about Dorian struck me as a bit strange. For example,

(Upon first seeing Dorian) "'A curious sensation of terror came over me. I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whle soul, my very art itself.'"

(discussing him with Harry) "'I couldn't be happy if I didn't see him every day. He is absolutely necessary to me. ... He is all my art to me now,' said the painter gravely."

I am not sure that I can understand this...


message 31: by Greg (last edited Feb 03, 2015 12:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
To me Leslie, that's part of the whole obsession with beauty thing. Dorian doesn't strike me as particularly fascinating (not someone I would fall hopelessly in love with), but for these characters that nearly idolize beauty, he is everything.

When Basil says "he is all my art to me now," I take that to mean that nothing else strikes him as so lovely as Dorian's visage; so he no longer feels inspired to paint anything else. His aim in art is to paint what is beautiful, and Dorian is the quintessence of that; so nothing else is worth painting. Something along those lines.


Leslie | 15985 comments Greg wrote: "To me Leslie, that's part of the whole obsession with beauty thing. Dorian doesn't strike me as particularly fascinating (not someone I would fall hopelessly in love with), but for these characters..."

Dorian doesn't strike me as fascinating as Harry, in terms of personality.

Basil's obsession is more than just with Dorian's physical beauty --

"'It is not merely that I paint from him, draw from him, sketch from him. Of course, I have done all that. But he is much more to me than a model or a sitter. ... his personality has suggested to me an entirely new manner in art ... I see things differently, I think of them differently. ... he defines for me the lines of a fresh school, a school that is to have in it all the passion of the romantic spirit, all the prefection of the spirit that is Greek.'"


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Since there are three distinct versions it would be interesting to make a comparison. Anyone have all 3?


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Obsession is definitely the right word for what Basil feels for Dorian. I think he has created a personality to be obsessed with even though Dorian isn't particularly interesting.


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Diana Raabe (dianaraabe) Greg wrote: "Hi Diana, welcome!! I think when it says "Feb/March '15" it means we will officially read & discuss it from Feb 1 2015 to March 31 2015. You can begin commenting already!

If you are giving away m..."


Many thanks!


message 36: by Greg (last edited Feb 04, 2015 05:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Leslie, I took these quotes as meaning that his personality and mode of expression are beautiful as well, classical somehow, unsullied at this point.

But what strikes me is it's not so much who Dorian really is but what he inspires in Basil ... as Greek sculptors were inspired by the perfection of the beautiful atheletes they sculpted.

When he talks of Dorian's "personality", this doesn't seem to be about complexity or depth of character; it's about how his appearance and manner inspire Basil's art. The depth is in the inspiration, not in Dorian himself. It's the part of the personality perhaps that expresses itself in Dorian's manner, close to the surface.


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Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "Obsession is definitely the right word for what Basil feels for Dorian. I think he has created a personality to be obsessed with even though Dorian isn't particularly interesting."

We cross posted Heather - my sentiments exactly!


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Yours was a bit more eloquent! It's almost a celebrity obsession


message 39: by Sandy (last edited Feb 03, 2015 03:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sandy Jean wrote: "Since there are three distinct versions it would be interesting to make a comparison. Anyone have all 3?"

Jean, Project Gutenberg has the 13-chapter and the 20-chapter versions for free download and Librivox appears to have audio versions of both (judging from the difference in running time).

The serial originally published in Lippincott's can be seen as a PDF here. The button "View PDF and text" in the upper right-hand corner will give you a vertical half-page PDF (instead of a horizontal half-page) - but the print is smaller.


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Thanks for the info Sandy.


Sandy Jean wrote: "Thanks for the info Sandy."

You're welcome, Jean.


message 42: by Greg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "Yours was a bit more eloquent! It's almost a celebrity obsession"

Thanks Heather :)


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Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Jean wrote: "Since there are three distinct versions it would be interesting to make a comparison. Anyone have all 3?"

This would be interesting Jean! And thanks for the info on getting the different versions Sandy!

Goodness, all of this discussion is inspiring me to read the book again! Maybe this time I'll read the third version Terri originally mentioned since I've read the expanded version a few times already.


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LauraT (laurata) | 13495 comments Mod
To answer Jean first: I'm listening to the dramatized version of librivox, with 20 chapters. I don't think I can get hold of the latest version - even if I'd be really interested in seeing it.

And now let's start talking about the book.
I'd like to make a "foreword". This is one of the book that nowadays even if you've not already read it, you know what it tells and probably also the end. I don't know if when it was first published it was so, but today even my son when he first picked it up knew that Dorian was not aging because his portrait was doing that for him, showing not only the "normal" changing of passing time but also the corruptions of hideous deeds.
So when we read it we do it not for the plot - to know what is going to happen - but how will the happenings be described, and what, describing them, the author wanted to show us.

So I started listening to it paying attention to almost every words Wilde wrote, and I can easily see why it is called the "manifesto" of hedonism: especially in the firsts chapters in the painter's studio, through the mouth of Lord Henry who seems to me a sort of alter ego of the writer himself - we find phrases after phrases on beauty, witty aphorism and a strong inclination on senses in general - think about the description of the flowers and their scents in Basil's garden.

Dorian seems at the beginning of the story - and of his life - to be inside as he is outside: beautiful and pure. What will change his nature? The occasion that what he does not show? (In Italy we say that is the occasion that makes the thief of the man!) Or the proximity with a corrupt influence of Lord Henry? Or was he corrupt right from the beginning - it was his "nature" - and only time showed it?


Charbel (queez) | 2692 comments I've always found Basil's initial fondness of Dorian a bit unhealthy. I mean to place so many expectations on one person simply because of physical attributes is very dangerous.
But I agree with Greg that a big part of it is the art. In Dorian, Basel believed that he had found his muse; someone to elevate his art to the next level. I think his motives were somewhat selfish (if that's a suitable word), that he believed the "perfect" subject would guarantee a masterpiece and forgetting that the painting should hold a message, instead of just depicting a beautiful person.


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LauraT (laurata) | 13495 comments Mod
I think that Basil here mirrors what romantic authors, and even more hedonists, thought of art and beauty


Charbel (queez) | 2692 comments LauraT wrote: "I think that Basil here mirrors what romantic authors, and even more hedonists, thought of art and beauty"

I agree. I always thought he also embodies excessive pride in one's work, not that I can blame him, in fact I think that it was always Basil's painting and not truly Dorian's.


Meran | 80 comments Very good discussion! I'm not sure which version I have, though I've read the story more than once, so it's possible I've read two versions... It's been a long time.

I think I'll go down and check my library, and read along with you. This was a great book!

I always see my first husband as Dorian... He was and still is a beautiful, attractive man. (He turned 61 recently. Looks maybe 35.) His face hides his true nature. I used to wonder if his mother had him painted as a young child when he won a Beautiful Child Contest. He was (and still is) very vain. His own sister said Carol King's "You're So ?Vain" song was written for him, so it's not just me. ;)


Leslie | 15985 comments My audiobook has 20 chapters. I think that this is the only version I have read.

@Laura -- I was listening to the first chapter or two and it occurred to me that Lord Henry might be a devil figure -- tempting Dorian into sin & evil actions. So then I was wondering if Basil was supposed to be the angel or good influence...


Alice Poon (alice_poon) Based on my recollection (I read the novel a couple of years ago), Lord Henry is not such a bad guy except that he is cynical at times and he likes to over-analyse things. His advice to Dorian is that he should make the most of his youth and try out things, while he is young. "Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses.... The world belongs to you for a season.... I just don't think he is a bad influence on Dorian.

Dorian, it would seem to me, does have some evil streak embedded deep inside him (as can be seen from his cruel treatment of Sibyl Vane). Of course, towards the end, he blames his vileness on the book that Lord Henry gave him. But that to me seems a lame excuse.

I do agree with Charbel that Basil Hallward's obsession with Dorian seems a bit unhealthy. But he is apparently aware of this himself and admits to Dorian his idolatry of him.


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