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Dorian: An Imitation [Hardcover]

Will Self
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Sep 2002
It is 1981 and the "Royal Broodmare", as Henry Wotton calls her, is about to be married. Wotton, an uneasy homosexual and an egregious drug-addict, and his friend Baz have found a remarkable young man Dorian Gray, the epitome of male beauty. 16 years later and the Princess is dead. As the stock market soars and their T-cell counts plummet, what has happened to Henry and Baz? And how does Dorian remain so youthful? Will Self's excoriating new novel is set against the AIDS crises of the '80s and '90s, and is a shameless reworking of our most shameless classic novel.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st Edition edition (26 Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670889962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670889969
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 480,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'One of those rare writers whose imaginations change the way we see the world' JG Ballard

About the Author

Will Self has published three short-story collections and three novels, all of which are in Penguin. His most recent novel HOW THE DEAD LIVE was shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread Fiction prize, and was a bestseller in both paperback and hardcover. He is married to the Independent columnist Deborah Orr, and they live with their two children in Stockwell, South London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
My head reels! I have, of course, just finished reading Will Self's "Dorian" and he's smarter than smart can be!
"Dorian - an Imitation" is so much more than simply the retelling of one of our most famous and terrifying modern fables.
Self has not only retold Oscar Wilde's 'Picture of Dorian Gray', and done this with great panache, dexterity and originality, but has taken it some way further as well. While many will (think) they know what to expect from the plot, there are plenty of new ports of call to keep the most jaded reader wide awake.
Self has transposed the characters of the original to the London of the 1980s and 1990s. And in so doing, Self gives glorious attention to detail: Dorian Gray's progress from callow youth to shallow monster, his 'mentor' Henry Wotton, the cynical yet perspicacious, bisexual drug-fiend aristo, his somewhat dippy but devoted wife 'Batface', the wrinkled old queen 'The Ferret' (like a human embodiment of the Dormouse from Alice in Wonderland) who keeps falling asleep and to whom they keep feeding drugs... and a convincing cast of many other lowlifes and highbrows.
Impressive, too, is the detail (psychological and social) of (a sector of) the homosexual world of the period, the disease and subculture of AIDS and (of course, Mr Self) drug taking. I write as a not totally unworldly gay man with HIV and feel that Self has achieved an, at times, uncomfortable and poignant accuracy.
At the novel's climax, as ever, Self has more cards up his sleeve than we realise. We're kept on the edge of our seats to the end - our brains reeling on the roller coaster of (!self-) revelation right to last full stop.
I found this book shocking, loathsome, chilling, gruesome and (consequently) totally compelling.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we love the Cathode Narcissus 3 Oct 2003
Self does it again. This time he turns his confident prose style to a modernisation of the Wilde classic depicting love, loss and the battle for eternal youth. I re-read the Wilde version immediately after reading Dorian and I was amazed at how closely Self managed to replicate the character development, but also graft a new layer of 20th Century detritus to the original. This is beautiful and shocking piece of literature that will certainly stand up as a classic in its own right, but is even better if read with the Wilde version. Go jiggling man!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Grasping at someone else's coattails... 3 Dec 2002
By A Customer
You might think it's a good idea to (re)read Wilde's original before diving into Self's reworking but, it's not. In comparison to the former, the latter is very pale indeed. Where the Wilde has warmth and wit, genuine suspense and no end of humanity, Will Self's book is full of nothing but one-dimensional misanthropes who fail to engage. Perhaps the most difficult thing to overcome in this novel that purports to be a reflection of our times is that despite references to and cataloging of contemporary culture, no one in this novel seems to have heard of or read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. It's this kind of oversight that here makes Self seem like an overspent hack, somehow clueless to the size of the task he's set himself. There's genius in the idea--particularly in updating the picture to a video installation--but the execution is just plain mediocre; for the first time, the writing seems tentative. There's no evidence of the verbal torrent that was How The Dead Live, none of the passion. It's almost like someone wagered him that he couldn't do it and he foolishly took up the bet. The five or so lines that refer to Diana are a good case in point--much could be made of her early yet inevitable demise and the fact that she lives on, as young and beautiful as ever, in the endless video clips that play across British tv screens to this day. But no such association is made; instead we get the obvious Sloane Ranger and tampon jokes. What she has to do with this story--other than to serve as a punching bag--remains a mystery. So what's the point of updating or reworking or imitating an absolutely timeless classic? Read more ›
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book Oscar wished he'd been allowed to pen 22 Sep 2003
Despite the irritating shadow of the thesaurus hanging over Self's books, his quest to never repeat a word, evolves from irritation into a grudging admiration from this reader. His wild yet disciplined form can evade definition and frequently causes low level anxiety. Those deft turns at fantasy, that allow him to run with dark English shadows, like in 'My Idea of Fun', with the literal application of childhood jokes, and in the gruesome hysteria of 'How the Dead Live', are lessened in 'Dorian'. Yet in 'Dorian', he has congealed this text into something that is more - dare I say - conventional in format. That's not to say that this book doesn't juxtapose hilarity with extreme violence, but that the formation of the story is happier to sit in a more conventional box.
In particular his characters are spectacularly enjoyable, and in particular I had a happy bonding to Henry Wotton, despite or perhaps because of his moral tendency to sit on the fence without getting splinters up his arse, whilst he cheerfully zones out of the world with yet more opiates. In contrast to a cosy bedding down with Henry, I watched in open-mouthed-horrified fascination at Dorian's emotionless foray into that unfashionable zone of evil.
This book was another example of why I shouldn't buy work that I suspect I'll love. Bought on Saturday. Finished by Sunday. A complete waste of 7.99 in terms of longevity of reading. Ignored food, work, sex and play. Would Will call Dorian's bluff? Would Ginger wreak his revenge, Ah yes, Oh No!
Dorian achieves loudly which Will Self girlishly wished for in response to Craig from Big Brother's being added to the ranks of a heartthrob for the gay world, - it will confirm his status as a gay icon.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Over rated.
I get so tired of jaded authors. I don't see the need to re-hash the wonderful Dorian Gray either. Binned this after cursory reading. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mary Yelland
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and imaginative, but flawed, imitation
I found it difficult to read this novel without comparing it unfavourably to the incredible work of Wilde which it imitates. Read more
Published 5 months ago by LilacLemon
4.0 out of 5 stars clever repackaging
This is a clever retelling and updating into a world of drugs and AIDS, of Wilde's story.

The 1980s gay scene is captured well, with its pre-AIDS sense of liberation -... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Dorian
This book was a disappointment, after the media hype Will Self is not my cup of tea! So many words used when one will suffice!
Published 20 months ago by LockyGy
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich, intoxicating and a brilliant nod to the original
If you're a Wilde puritan, this certainly isn't the book for you. If however you're looking for a debauched glimpse of how an immortal Mr Gray could intoxicate himself, his... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Yawn darts
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Self Dorian
This is a good idea for a book. I am surprised that it has not been done before. It is quite crude in parts, but, you expect that from a work by Mr Self.
Published on 22 Oct 2010 by Leslie A. Heaps
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd, Interesting and Enjoyable
This is an updated version of 'Picture Of Dorian Grey' by Oscar Wilde, so in order to have any appreciation of this version, it helps to read the Oscar Wilde version first. Read more
Published on 9 Mar 2008 by Elizabeth Gershwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating and decadent
About a year ago, my brother put this book into my hands with the words, "Read this." Being both a life-long Wilde fan and an admirer, with some reservations, of the Self-Amis axis... Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2007 by patrick oloan
5.0 out of 5 stars Faultless
Absolutely amazing adaptation of Wilde's masterpiece. Self strips away the ambiguous homosexuality of the original to flagrantly expose a nakedly gyrating, promiscuous, drug... Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2006 by Room For A View
5.0 out of 5 stars A Capitalist Manifesto
The rage of the twentieth century is the rage of a credit card wielding addict seeing his own face in the glass. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2006 by L. S. Ribbons
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