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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On no account lock away this work of art in the attic!
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...
Published on 7 Oct. 2002 by Amazon Customer

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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...
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...
Published on 3 Dec. 2002


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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On no account lock away this work of art in the attic!, 7 Oct. 2002
This review is from: Dorian: An Imitation (Hardcover)
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. Even at its most grotesque (or perhaps, perversely, because of it) it has credibility - the hallmarks of truth. Enough to make you feel exposed as though your own picture were on view because it is so very vivid.
Indeed the book has a very visual, filmic quality about its writing - almost as if it were the screenplay for a movie. Perhaps, (like the video art installation of Dorian Gray itself) the book partly reflects the way that art and entertainment now centres its focus and importance on the medium of the moving image.
Be that as it may, like all good fiction/art, it holds up a mirror to the truth about any of us, so how can we help but leer back at it and make comparisons? For it is "the spectator and not life that art really mirrors" as Oscar Wilde states in his preface to "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
Indeed, let's give Wilde the last word seeing as that's where this story began. "The artist is the creator of beautiful things" he says at the start. Self has certainly done that in this version - even if the subject matter might make that seem otherwise.
Buy it. Read it. And shiver!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How we love the Cathode Narcissus, 3 Oct. 2003
This review is from: Dorian: An imitation (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars clever repackaging, 27 Jun. 2013
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Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dorian (Paperback)
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 - orgies, `damp bath houses and fetid gyms, cottages'

Then comes this new disease thought to be caused by using poppers. Later comes the Labour landslide and Diana.

Diana and Dorian became the celeb. icons of their day.

Many of us know decadents like Wooten, who mentors Grey, who would rather his servants stole from him than pay them. He doesn't always wear an AIDS lapel as it doesn't always go with what he is wearing. He is a snob who asks: 'Minneapolis? Do they have art there?' He quips: `Monogamy is to love as ideology is to thought; both are failures in imagination.' He ends up bribing the medical staff to bring him drugs when he is in hospital with AIDS

Henry Wotton's neighbour, the "jiggling man" metes out the seconds of physical time for Wotton's existence.

Dorian is described as `completely vapid as well as murderous. A ludicrous, narcissistic pretty boy, with nothing on his mind but sex and sadism [...], selfish
and egotistical."

What is real? Is there a conspiracy feeding us with images of that which is really unreal?: his theory on the Gulf War to Hester Wharton, another of the guests at the Wottons': "Of course", he drawled," the Gulf war never really happened..." "What the hell d'you mean? "[...]"I mean that the Gulf War didn't happen". Dorian held up his hand s and began telling off the fictions on his manicured fingers. "There was no invasion of Kuwait, No tense standoff, no coalition- building, no Scuds falling on Tel Aviv, no bombs smartly singling out Ba'athist apparatchiks in Baghdad, no refugees on the Jordanian border, no Republican guards buried on the Basra road, no Schwarzkopf, no dummkops, no tortured RAF pilots, no victory, none of it. No Gulf War. Can I make myself clearer?" He goes on to ask if anyone knows someone who's actually been killed or lost a lived one.

Amusing phrases include: More gays in audience than on stage at opera. Philanthropy as an `act' is a cynical view. Smart enough to read theology yet perceptive enough to read tea leaves. Modern furniture looked as comfortable as a colonoscopy. Fixing coke - all human striving is here - measured out in millilitres. `You're all delicate flowers, aren't you, boys. The whole death thing shakes you up so, and that nasty moral majority saying it was all your own minority fault.' `You homosexuals are only the vanguard of a mutton army dressed as lambs.' Taking off condom and pouring it in. `as if Cologne Cathedral was being shoved up my fundament' (Jung in reverse) `Conceptual art has degenerated to the level of crude autobiography, a global-village sale of shoddy, personal memorabilia for which video installations are the TV. `why am I always up at the dawn of crack?' I wonder if the Royal Academy gift shop is doing special offers on ....vacuum-packed blood.'

The inclusion of Jeremy magazine is a blast from the past.

There's a surprising ending

That there is a naked man on the cover meant that one of our members felt unable to read it on the bus.
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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
This review is from: Dorian: An Imitation (Hardcover)
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? Well, it works in other mediums (Liz Phair's Exile In Guyville working in track by track resistance to the Stones' Exile on Main Street, for one; Paula Vogel's highly personal How I Learned To Drive in response to Lolita is another) but it usually falls flat in books and it certainly does here. Why use all the same characters and names, etc? Self too easily falls into a paint-by-numbers template as if he's working with Wilde's original by his side. He finds some freedom in the epilogue but by then the whole thing just caves in on itself. It also reads as if Self learned everything he knows about homosexuals from reading the Daily Mail. Strictly a curiousity--certainly not essential.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Over rated., 20 April 2014
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This review is from: Dorian (Paperback)
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. The produce however was in the condition advertised and arrived in good time so wouldn't complain about the seller.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book Oscar wished he'd been allowed to pen, 22 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Dorian: An imitation (Paperback)
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. And he doesn't do so badly with the girls, stop with that tongue in cheek picture you put on all publishing back covers - We KNOW what you're insinuating.
If you haven't read any Will Self before, this will be a romping little jaunt through bloodletting, amoral sexuality, beautiful boys, raddled aristocratic harridans, a jiggling man, drug taking and the superlative fencing and parading of the English language. Get addicted. It’s the only way forward.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd, Interesting and Enjoyable, 9 Mar. 2008
This review is from: Dorian: An imitation (Paperback)
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. The story, which begins in the early 1980's, concerns a beautiful young man named Dorian who takes to a lifestyle of unbridled hedonism with wanton abandon.

It's startling just how accurately Will Self has stuck to the original story, but at the same time giving it a modern twist.

What I found particularly enjoyable about this novel was Will Self's utterly odd and unique way of describing things. The prose here is like nothing I have ever read before, provoking seriously weird and wonderful mental imagery, frequently imbued with black humour. Self's vocabulary is immense and his humour is sharp. I feel particularly inclined to mention 'The Jiggling Man', a man who one of the central characters can see jiggling back and forth from one of the windows in his house. The sheer oddness and surrealism of this brought a smile to my face. Self must certainly view things with an unconventional eye, and that has allowed him to write some extremely distinctive prose.

The Dorian story also transfers well onto a modern landscape, with Self expertly weaving the AIDS epidemic, the life of Princess Diana and the 80's drug culture into Oscar Wilde's original story.

The story of Dorian, a neurotically vain and hedonistic young man, has particular relevance in the twenty-first century, since this book has a lot to say about the nature of vanity, decadence and promiscuity, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

I found this to be a superbly well-written, witty, satirical, and imaginative read, containing some truly distinctive prose and imagery.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars art imitating life imitating art ..., 7 Feb. 2003
This review is from: Dorian: An Imitation (Hardcover)
Will Self naturally leaves himself open to critics who wish to compare his work to Wilde's original, but there is no need constantly to assess how the one stands up against the other. Surely he wasn't intent on writing this particular novel to prove himself a better writer than Wilde, but rather to make his own statement on beauty, the passing of time and the general zeitgeist. Time for a reworking of an old classic? Why not?
Will Self impresses as a wordsmith. And what he creates is an illusion: we are not to take his characters seriously; indeed, they all find it difficult to take themselves seriously. The overabundance of exquisite similes and metaphors allows the author to hide behind language,to create an illusion; that is to say that the world he describes - an excess of sex, vanity and drug use - is a disgusting one, but their vile impact is much attenuated by Self's use of words. Just as the Cathode Narcissus is an illusion of eternal beauty (even the VHS tapes of the Narcissus wither with age), so too Self's language creates an illusory sense that all is rosy in Wootton's world. We aren't to take anything at face value by a long stretch. We might try to read Dorian, perhaps, as one might watch a film from the surrealist era: it is difficult to differentiate in the novel between what is real and what is imagined: can there really be a 'jiggling man' who spends all day rocking back and forth? Can it be possible for anyone to say so young and free from the ravages of time and disease as Dorian? Can a magical piece of art like the Cathode Narcissus possibly exist in a real world? All very unlikely and yet portrayed by Self as perfectly real.
You can almost tell that, as he writes, Self is having fun - he enjoys the act of writing and creating a novel. From the quips uttered by Wootton to the alliteration of some tripartite descriptions of dream sequences, it would be absurd to ignore the fact that Self is totally self-conscious as he writes; he's having fun and there is no reason why we should get overly obsessed with the substance and ignore the style. I'm not applauding Self because he's slightly more difficult to read than your average contemporary author - it's more that this difficulty becomes a treat since it seems to come so effortlessly to the writer and, eventually, becomes highly accessible to the reader. And, to repeat the point made above, the substance or themes of the book are so concerned with illusion versus reality (Henry making a show of his entire life, Batface ignoring the sham of their wedding, Baz struggling to come to terms with his illness, the garden's obstinate refusal to recognize the passing of the seasons, drugs and the way they have of corrupting our image of the world outside and of ourselves, etc.) that if the style of the writer can help reinforce the point, so much the better. A style obsessed with the act of illusion or dissembling used to describe a world intent on lying to itself as it refuses to recognize the passage of time. And if ever there was a desire to refuse the 'surrealism' of the work, the epilogue settles it - it tries to pass off the whole story as the creation of a bitter, dying AIDS sufferer, but ends up confusing Wootton's creation with the real world and the reader is left wondering which is which?
And then, you can discuss the 'themes' until you're blue in the face. Is Self's description of the London homosexual scene lacking in credibility? Undoubtedly. Ditto the drugs scene. I doubt he was aiming at a true representation of these; rather, as with everything else, Self exaggerates unashamedly to give life and fun to his novel - no nuclear families going on a weekend trip to the park in a Ford Mondeo for Mr Self, it would be far too dull.
If you want to pick holes in the novel, there are plenty of places to start - compare it to Wilde's, bemoan his slapdash approach in describing contemporary Britain ... and so on. I thought it was fantastic - he's set himself limits in what he wants to describe, how he's going to describe it, how's he going to write about it. His characters are too shallow for you? They're supposed to be, we live in a shallow world where any idea of depth is, for Self, illusory. The deceptions and conceits we use to describe our world are far more exciting than the world itself and, anyway, whatever is hidden always ends up by being discovered - the murders are solved, death catches up with all the characters who seek to deny its existence and so on.
All remarkably taut and, for the reworking of an idea, not a bad addition to the original idea at all. What I mean is, when you read some of the drivel that gets the Booker, you wonder why slightly risqué or original authors like Self (or Julian Barnes) don't get a look in. I'm glad I read it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Take on Wilde, 11 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Dorian: An imitation (Paperback)
Will Self's achievement in Dorian is that he makes it much more than an updated version of Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. Though update it he does, giving it a contemporary setting and turning its Victorian upper-class characters into a troupe of drug-addicted homosexuals. Many of the character adaptations are inspired in their creativity: Dorian's enamoured, the actress Sibyl Vane becomes a pitiful junkie called Herman, and her vengeful brother his drug-dealing companion.
The Picture is absent from Self's title because it is absent from the novel, having been replaced by a video installation called Cathode Narcissus. This artwork resides in the attic of debauched society boy Dorian Gray while he mysteriously wears the face of eternal youth. As his former friends and lovers succumb to AIDS, Dorian is healthier than ever, despite his obvious depravity.
Those who have read Wilde's novel may think that they can second-guess the plot of Self's, but he cleverly twists the story so that you are never sure whether he will end it as Wilde did, or send it off in a completely different direction. Despite this, and despite the modernisation, he retains the spirit of the original text, and even throws in a few quotations from Wilde (I'm sure I missed many more).
However, Dorian is not an entirely satisfying read, containing along with Self's frequent brilliance some of his more irritating foibles. Although his linguistic pretentiousness fits better here than in much of his other work, it does become frustrating having to reach for a dictionary every few pages. There are further uncomfortable stylistic quirks such as alternating between using quotes and dashes to denote speech, and one of the plot's major twists is extremely awkward.
Dorian is not a great novel then, although you could certainly do a lot worse. However, it is worthy of recognition as an adaptation with the perfect balance between borrowed and original material. Self does not better The Picture of Dorian Gray, but it would be unfair to expect him to, and his novel can comfortably be read with no knowledge at all of Wilde's. However, if I had not read Wilde's original before this, Self would not have tempted me to do so, and as such Dorian's merits as an adaptation are not unanimous.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rich, intoxicating and a brilliant nod to the original, 13 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Dorian (Paperback)
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 'friends' and the wider modern world then you'll love it.
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Dorian: An imitation
Dorian: An imitation by Will Self (Paperback - 26 Jun. 2003)
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