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Group Read Discussions > Dorian Gray - Spoilers

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10058 comments Mod
I remember reading this in High School.... Tell me what happens.

message 2: by Kerri (new)

Kerri Just finished last night....I'm going to digest a few thoughts and then will be back to discuss!

message 3: by Jayme (last edited Mar 03, 2010 09:04PM) (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Loved it! It was slow starting for me, but it got more and more interesting as the book went on. As soon as Dorian's girlfriend bites it, the book just went all sorts of awesome. And then when he realises he got his wish and the picture is starting to change...such a great story! And the ending, stabbing the picture, but really stabbing himself as a hideous sinful old man. I had so much fun reading this.

I love Oscar Wilde's wit. It's a shame he doesn't have more novels. I think he could have done even more great things. But I guess life wasn't that good to poor Oscar.

message 4: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 714 comments I read this about two years ago and didn't love it. I think I got so bogged down but the portions of the book where they describe all the stuff in Dorian's house. I can't remember exact details now but I definitely remember wishing that part would end sooner.

The whole concept of the book is really cool though-the painting reflecting all his evil deeds and hard living while he, himself, remains unchanged. I read this as part of the Rory Gilmore book club and there were lots of good points made over there about Faust etc. that definitely added to my enjoyment of the story. I'll see what I can find and relay some here because God knows I can't do it justice on my own!

message 5: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) There was one chapter, that was kind of like a bad segue from Dorian's youth to his degenerate adult ways, that was really boring and unnecessarily descriptive. Lots of stuff about art and books and culture and blah. But I thought the rest of the book was really well paced and exciting.

message 6: by Alex (last edited Mar 09, 2010 05:06PM) (new)

Alex I just finished it. My boss is out of the office today. I'm so psyched I get to graduate from the Non Spoiler to the Spoiler thread! I'm a big boy now.

I dug it, and I agree with everything Jayme said.

I recently read Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, which makes an interesting companion piece to this; they're sortof about the same thing. Dorian Gray was published in 1890, Jekyll & Hyde in 1886; Wilde's apparently on record as admiring Jekyll & Hyde.

I think Wilde's lack of experience writing novels shows at times. For example: James Vane is introduced so clumsily that it's instantly clear that Sibyl will come to an unfortunate end and James will take revenge. There's no other reason for his character to exist, right? "If he ever does you any wrong, I shall kill him." Not brilliantly subtle.

Jekyll & Hyde, by contrast, is a tidy little package by a master of storytelling. But it doesn't reach for the same heights that Dorian Gray does. Wilde's not always successful, but I think he's set his sights higher.

I said this on the other thread, sorry to repeat myself: I'm a little afraid that Wilde thinks Lord Henry is as charming as everyone in the book seems to. From quotes I've read, and from Wilde's preface to this book ("All art is quite useless"), Henry's paradoxical style seems to be an exaggerated version of Wilde's own. The problem is that Henry's a bore. He's just constructing elaborate nonsense based on a formula. You could probably write a software program to deliver Henry-isms. "I'm tired!" "I tire only of sleeping." "That girl's hot!" "There's nothing so ugly as a pretty girl." Oh, shut up.

Sorry about the length. I have nothing better to do.

message 7: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 714 comments That's it exactly Jayme-it made me nuts.

Ha Alex! I agree with you about Lord Henry-his social commentary got so old. And you're right about James Vane too-sadly Wilde isn't alone in these ham-handed segues (sorry, had to throw that Hannibal Lector quote in there for my own amusement)-some authors seem to feel the need to hit us over the head with an anvil to make sure we get their point.

I still haven't gone back to the Rory Gilmore discussion but I will, I promise.

message 8: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Holy cr@p, Alex, you just made my head explode a little. I wouldn't have thought to compare it to Jekyll & Hyde, but you're so bang on!

And yeah, James Vane was painfully obvious. I was watching the whole book for his return. But in Wilde's defense I thought he was going to kill Dorian, I didn't guess that he would get randomly shot like that, lurking outside on Dorian's property. I'd say Wilde's obvious forshadowing definitely comes from his play writing experience, plays are rarely subtle with their foreshadowing.

Here's a quote you might like from Wilde about his characters in this book:

"It is a tragedy that mirrors my life. Harry is what the world thinks of me, Basil is who I think I am and Dorian is who I would like to be..."

Which is why it made me laugh to read that you thought Harry was like Wilde, Alex!

And one more thing...sorry this is getting so long. Have any of you read much about Wilde's trial for indecency that landed him in jail? The things he said in his defense to the judge were like something Lord Henry would have said. It was hilarious, he didn't take them seriously at all. He certainly didn't think much of society, but who can blame him.

message 9: by Kari (new)

Kari (kiwibee) Haha, Alex, I love your description of Lord Henry. I really, really hated him, and it takes a lot to make me hate a character; I think the fact that Dorian and several other characters thought he was SO charming didn't help any. Lord Henry saw that Dorian was totally eating up his paradoxes, and yet he just continued to spew them regardless of the consequences. I wonder if he would have been so careless if he could have seen the effects his actions had on the portrait. Probably.

message 10: by Kerri (new)

Kerri Jayme wrote: "There was one chapter, that was kind of like a bad segue from Dorian's youth to his degenerate adult ways, that was really boring and unnecessarily descriptive. Lots of stuff about art and books an..."

Completely agree, Jayme! I flipped through several of those pages!

message 11: by Alex (new)

Alex Interesting quote, Jayme. So he wanted to be...a man who willfully destroys his own soul? Weird. At least Henry knew what he was: a sociopath who destroys others for his own amusement. Dorian, though? Delusional and weak.

Kari, I agree, I think Henry knew what he was doing.

I haven't seen quotes from his trial, Jayme. What a shame that society murdered a mind like his, though.

message 12: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) I was thinking Wilde might have wanted to be beautiful and adored. But I was a little confused by that too, Alex.

message 13: by Alex (new)

Alex I'm sure that is what he meant, yeah.

message 14: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) A little off topic, but
this article is pretty good if anyone is interested in the trials.

Dorian Gray was one of the items used against him at the trial. I thought that was odd, I did not find it very homosexual. Dorian lives a life of indecency, but the book does not make that look like a good thing, so I do not see the problem.

message 15: by Kristen (new)

Kristen | 6 comments I read this back in high school and don't remember it being so good! It's always interesting reading a book for your own enjoyment after having it as an assignment at some point.
Jayme, I completely agree on the chapter focused on Dorian's various hobbies and interests, just skimmed it and still felt bored. Dr.Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is definitely on my list to read now!

message 16: by Alex (new)

Alex Thanks Jayme. I dunno, I thought Picture of Dorian Gray was pretty gay. I felt it was implied that Dorian was at least bi; but it's also implied that Basil is gay - and in love with Dorian - and since he represents morality, art and everything else good in the story, I could see that being more damning.

Apparently there was a first, shorter version of the book; for publication, Wilde expanded it but also de-gayified it substantially. Basil was (if I'm remembering right) even gayer originally.

Of course, I thought Gilgamesh was pretty gay too, so maybe I'm just super sensitive. Just kidding, Gilgamesh is wicked gay.

Kristen, I agree, returning to books after you were forced to read them for class is endlessly surprising.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is fun and easy to read, and it's only a novella anyway, so it won't take long. I hope you get to it!

message 17: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Cool! I want to read the gayer version!

I picked up a graphic novel version of this at the library. I'm going to read it tonight, hopefully, and see if it sucks or not. The pictures are really pretty at least. But Dorian is blonde.

message 18: by Alex (last edited Mar 09, 2010 06:36AM) (new)

Alex Shouldn'ta said that, Jayme; now you'll have to put your money where your mouth is. (I'm not gonna read it myself; I'm knee-deep in The Communist Manifesto now. I won't judge you if you don't either.)

Here's a pretty good (although slightly dry) essay on the differences between the versions, which makes a side point I hadn't thought of:

"even as Wilde later contends 'There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book,' he gives Dorian a beautiful 'yellow book' that is certainly corrupting."

That quote is of course from Wilde's preface, which sought to answer criticism about the 1890 version; but as this dude points out, the preface directly contradicts what actually happens in the novel.

message 19: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Dorian considers the book immoral, but when he says so to Lord Henry, Henry says the book isn't to blame. I forget exactly what he says, but it's some sort of defense for books not being immoral. I think his point was always that it's the person who reads it, not the book, that is to blame.

Thanks for the links! I'm definitely going to read both of those after work today.

message 20: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Hey that article was from my University! Go UVic!

message 21: by Alex (new)

Alex School pride! Heck, maybe you can track down this James Gifford guy and make him talk about it with you.

message 22: by Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (last edited Mar 10, 2010 01:39AM) (new)

Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (listobsessed) | 317 comments Alex wrote: "Thanks Jayme. I dunno, I thought Picture of Dorian Gray was pretty gay. I felt it was implied that Dorian was at least bi; but it's also implied that Basil is gay - and in love with Dorian - and ..."

I thought there was a lot of flirting going on for a book that had only introduced three male characters so far... hahah! I found that really interesting given the time it was written! Alex, that 'pretty' covered Penguin Classic version of the book that you were discussing in the 'March reads are' thread has some of the more, as you put it, 'gayified', lines that were removed in the notes at the back of the book. I haven't read them all, but have browsed through some.

Just finished this morning. I have been meaning to read this one for a long time so I'm really glad it came up for the group read! I'm also glad I wasn't the only one who found it difficult to concentrate with all the description in the middle of the book. I thought I was just having an off reading day... apparently not!

message 23: by Alex (last edited Mar 09, 2010 05:05PM) (new)

Alex Yeah, Tanya, I think we can all agree that that chapter in the middle is awful. I wonder if that's in the original version.

I didn't even read my own pretty Penguin version; I downloaded it free onto the Kindle 'cause I didn't want to risk spilling coffee on my wife's Christmas present. It's really cool that it includes some of that stuff.

Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (listobsessed) | 317 comments Ah Alex you're a good man.. I couldn't resist mine, this is first of them I've read since purchasing them all.

Also I really liked the ending. Though I agree with Jayme I did think James Vane was going to kill Dorian, so his death was a bit of a surprise!
I was just browsing back through everyones comments looking for something else I agreed with when reading it through earlier, which turns out to be another Jayme quote (we must think alike!), that when the character of Sybil is introduced the story really takes off and I couldn't put it down... well til that famed middle chapter of course!

message 25: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) I must be really blind when it comes to the gay parts. I thought it was really flowery, but chalked that up more to them being the artsy type.

Still haven't read the gayer one yet, but I do really want to compare now. I did read the graphic novel yesterday and it was good! But it still sucked in the middle. They took the lines right out of the book and just added pretty pictures. So there was like five pages where nobody talks and it droned on and on. The only good thing was they shortened it!

message 26: by Alex (new)

Alex Tanya, I thought I was kindof lame for buying a beautiful book and then being too wussy to open it. Good to know that there's an alternative interpretation.

Yeah, Jayme, I forgot to say that before but I agreed too: while it was clear that James would be pissed off about Sybil at some point, I certainly didn't think he'd end up randomly getting shot by a bystander. So that was a nice surprise.

Jayme is our Official Maker of Good Points.

But seriously, your gaydar sucks.

message 27: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Your comments always make me laugh! Gaydar...

message 28: by Alex (new)

Alex You've never heard gaydar? I didn't even make that up. It's - wow, I did not know this: it's in the actual dictionary and everything.

I'm kinda not sure how I feel about that.

Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (listobsessed) | 317 comments Alex wrote: "Tanya, I thought I was kindof lame for buying a beautiful book and then being too wussy to open it. Good to know that there's an alternative interpretation"

Only because you said you didn't want to risk ruining something you bought for your wife... if they were your own, not so much... hahah!

message 30: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (lissieb7) I finished reading Dorian Gray today and then headed off for church. I am in a teacher training class on Wednesday nights. We are studying the old testament book by book so that we will be prepared to teach next quarter. Anyway, tonight we were looking at Ecclesiastes which was written by King Solomon. In Chapter 2, Solomon talks about his search for the meaning of life. He tries earthly wisdom, pleasure, drink, riches, women, music, fame, and fulfilling his own desires. And from this he finds nothing. There is no meaning, no fulfillment until chapter 12 when he finally turns to God. I recalled that chapter everyone hates. Dorian threw himself into one thing after another. In the end we find him seeking an opium den. I couldn't help but compare Dorian to Solomon. In all of this Dorian was searching for meaning or purpose or just happiness. In the end, he had nothing and I believe was indeed unhappy. Even his friend Lord Henry only irritated him and made him feel even more unhappiness. The answer lies within not without.

message 31: by Alex (new)

Alex That's a really interesting point of view, Melissa! Very apropos. Thanks!

message 32: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Awesome, Melissa! I'm always jealous of anyone with really good comparison skills. I always assume the author just made something totally original, until someone points out it's just like so and so's story.

And I've heard of gaydar, but I think you're the first person to use it in a Dorian Gray discussion made me giggle. And can be considered a real dictionary? I want to see that in something that publishes!

message 33: by Alex (new)

Alex Ah, that makes sense.

No, I agree that isn't definitive. I checked the sources; they cite the Random House Dictionary and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Those are what I was referring to as the "actual dictionary."

message 34: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Alright, you're off the hook this time.

message 35: by Kari (new)

Kari (kiwibee) I feel really odd, because I think I'm the only person who wasn't bored to death with the descriptions of Dorian's various hobbies. They really got me thinking, because even though he was trying to achieve new sensations, he was learning a lot about, say, gems and textiles. In other words, even though it was hedonistic, at least he was learning something. Or maybe I was learning something, and that's why I wasn't bored with it?

If Wilde tried to write a chapter like that today, listing sensory but "wasteful" pursuits, I wonder what he would include. Dorian spending hours crafting the perfect Myspace page maybe? ;)

message 36: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) I really hope Wilde could think of a modern pursuit more interesting than My Space. If not that makes me really sad about the times we live in. I can't think of one though...

message 37: by Alex (new)

Alex OMG Kari, you're such a freak!

C'mon Jayme, it's not so bad. Cooking is popular right now; being a wine snob; making cheese is sortof a little trend; photography's never been more popular. He could knit scarves and open an Etsay store. There are plenty of cool hobbies.

But honestly, he'd probably be one of those guys who corners you at parties and talks about the Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers for twenty minutes.

message 38: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (newtomato) Dorian (i.e. Wilde) had quite a side table fetish - I'm sure he could still go antiquing today! We'd probably see him all smug on Antiques Roadshow, not shocked at all that his little silver-gilt hexagonal table is worth a gazillion dollars. (I hate the ones who aren't surprised!)

message 39: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Frary | 90 comments Alex wrote: "I just finished it. My boss is out of the office today. I'm so psyched I get to graduate from the Non Spoiler to the Spoiler thread! I'm a big boy now.

I dug it, and I agree with everything Jay..."

So I just finished 'Dorian' today.

Alex I agree with you quite a bit on James Vane and Lord Henry. I however thought the story was decent and some parts were definately dragged out and way to detailed (as many others have noted as Overall it got two stars from me.

message 40: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) Cindy, I would want to see his face when he found out it was only worth 5 bucks! Haha, Antiques Road Show!

Knit scarves and open an Etsy store?! That's perfect. Cooking is definitely popular. He could also grow his own organic garden and then learn to make preserves with the harvest and sell them at the Farmer's Market. Go canning skills!

Maybe he'd travel and then write a bad travelogue about it afterward, with some of his bad photography to go along with it.

What about being on a reality TV show? He could be the creepy, perverted one, who'd probably still get all the votes because he's good looking.

message 41: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (newtomato) Jayme wrote: "What about being on a reality TV show? He could be the creepy, perverted one, who'd probably still get all the votes because he's good looking."

How about "Picture of Love" on MTV?

message 42: by Alex (new)

Alex Oh God, he'd totally be on reality TV. Gah. Good call.

message 43: by El (new)

El Man, all this reality-TV-Dorian-Gray talk is making me imagine Dorian Gray as played by Spencer Pratt or something. I don't like it.

So has anyone seen the new movie, Dorian Gray? This poster says 09-09-09, but I never saw it come through Pittsburgh. Unless I blinked.

message 44: by Alex (new)

Alex I had no idea there was a movie.

I clicked that Spencer link because I didn't recognize his name, and it was sortof traumatic. I remember him now. He strikes me as a guy who may have a picture somewhere that's eating his soul.

message 45: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (newtomato) Wow, El, I hadn't heard of the movie! Colin Firth plays Lord Henry. *swoon* Maybe it only played in the UK? I'd love to hear if someone saw the movie! Here's the IMDB listing as well:

message 46: by El (new)

El I really just want to see it because of Benjamin Barnes. Yumtastic.

Alex, I could have posted the image of Spencer Pratt sans shirt. As it is I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonight.

message 47: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) I didn't know there was a new movie, but I knew there was a really old one. With some Angela Lansbury as Sibyl Vane action.

message 48: by Philip (new)

Philip (philiphabecker) This is a little off topic, but I thought it was funny how often they kept bringing up American girls...

Also, whenever Lord Henry is talking, (all his paradoxes and whatever else) he seems to be talking only for Dorian's benefit. And he knows the effect it's having. That sucks for Basil. (Artistically, and mortally)

message 49: by Philip (new)

Philip (philiphabecker) Another side note. (Sorry... it took me a while to read through all the comments, and now I'm disrupting the flow anyway...)

I just read Bram Stoker's Dracula over the summer, and I found an interesting tid-bit in it's introduction. Stoker and Wilde were fighting over a girl. Stoker won.

I'm no Freud or anything, but that made me really wonder about why Wilde was so wild.

Also, I think they used the book in the trial because art is supposedly a form of autobiography. I think it even mentions that in the preface, but that might not be one of those little quips... Either way, it's a maxim I think most people agree with to some extent.

message 50: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jayme-reads) That's a good point about autobiography, Philip. But I still say all he does is hint at immoral behaviour (gay or otherwise) and that the overall tone of the book is immoral behaviour makes your soul ugly and you'll end up stabbing yourself. So it's not exactly endorsing it.

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