Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

April Books 12) The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

I seem to be reading a lot less this year; not really sure why this is, perhaps a combination of minor changes to my usual routine along with presbyopia simply making reading less comfortable than it used to be (for example, I can barely read the small print of most articles in Doctor Who Monthly). As I did last year, I set myself about twenty reading lists in 2012, and whereas last year I could expect to cycle through at least one book on each of them in a two-month period, I've only now, at the end of April, reached Dorian Gray, which was at the top of the last of my lists. Things have also been a little skewed by my reading the complete BSFA and Arthur C Clarke shortlists, and also by my decision to prioritise reading Christmas presents, but it's a definite slowdown.

Anyway, The Picture of Dorian Gray was a reread, the top book in my LibraryThing list that I hadn't already written up on-line. I was sorry that I had only the standard Wordsworth Classics edition, with GRRRRR endnotes, rather than the deluxe uncensored edition recently reviewed by Steve Mollmann. But it's a masterpiece anyway, with the hilarious witticisms of Lord Henry punctuating a frenetic narrative of devotion to aesthetic perfection which leads inevitably to moral and personal disaster. It's also very short (having just trudged through yet another Dostoevsky, I appreciated that) and easy to digest, as long as you remain alert to the constant innuendo.

A couple of minor points that struck me: the fictional dukes who pop up as minor characters (and perhaps the other nobles as well) have non-fictional titles; the real Duke of Berwick and Duke of Monmouth were the illegitimate sons of Stuart kings. (Compare Wodehouse's comically named aristocrats.) And the anti-Semitism directed at Isaacs the theatrical agent is very jarring to today's reader in a way that probably would not have been the case earlier.

Anyway, a classic work which I recommend (while envying Steve his access to the unexpurgated text).
Tags: bookblog 2012, rereads, writer: oscar wilde
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