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on 11 January 2011
If you have never read these stories before, then you must NOW. I discovered them in my late teens (I'm nearly 70 now) and now, long after my paperback copy has fallen apart, to have them on my fantastic Kindle means I can enjoy them at 'the touch of a switch'! They make me laugh and cry in equal amounts. Enjoy!!!
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on 5 September 2017
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only novel, follows Wilde’s philosophy of art that art serves no other purpose than to offer beauty to people and society in general. Throughout The Picture of Dorian Gray, beauty reigns. It revitalises the wearied senses, as indicated by the effect that Basil’s painting has on the cynical Lord Henry. It is a means of escaping the brutalities of the world: Dorian distances himself from the consequences of his actions by devoting himself to the study of beautiful things—music, jewels, rare tapestries. In a society that prizes beauty so highly, youth and physical attractiveness become valuable commodities. No matter what Dorian does, his ageless beauty, which is being absorbed by the portrait of himself, exempts him from any punishment or consequence as noted by many characters. Wonderfully written, Wilde has that dark Irish sense of humour and wit and despite his philosophy on art being nothing if it is not beautiful, the novel shows how frail and ultimately doomed any society is that prizes beauty no matter how the actions of that person might affect others.
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on 1 January 2015
I already have a few copies of Dorian Gray but I ordered this because I thought the cover design was beautiful, which it was.

Onto the book itself, it's been a favourite of mine for many years, and it never fails to entertain me - a deliciously dark story, and I would recommend Wilde to absolutely anybody.
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on 20 February 2015
Thomas Hardy complained that censors were prudish so it isn’t just this book which had parts cut. One translator was sent to jail so publishers were under legal threat.

There is much repetition in the textual introduction of material in the general introduction.

Some of our group thought that we were sold this version under false pretences since there is hardly any extra material and yet there are seven chapters from the World Classics edition missing here.

Wilde’s view of marriage was shocking to many of his time. Was that why the book was censored. If can’t be because of homosexuality per se because the uncensored version still had, 'Why is your friendship so fatal to young men?'

Is Basil the angel and Lord Henry the devil in Dorian’s ears? The latter urges a pre-Christian, Greek morality.

One chapter is self-indulgent and contains much tedious description but otherwise the book skilfully leaves much to the imagination.

The anti-Semitism when referring to the theatre manager is typical of its time.

The portrait painter acted out of adoration for Dorian. ‘The sitter is merely the accident' Wilde being a Roman Catholic, would have known that ‘accident’ was a technical term in the notion of transubstantiation – if Dorian is the accident, does the painting become the substance - art as sacrament? the painting as the real presence?)

The name Dorian evokes ‘Greek love’.

The portrait remains ‘in the closet’.

Algiers is mentioned – a hangout for English homosexuals.

Wilde’s typical bon mots are amusing to start with but become tiresome after a while.

Is it autobiographical? Wilde once remarked that it "contains much of me in it. ….that Basil Hall-ward is "what I think I am" but "Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps." Wilde's comment suggests a backward glance to a Greek or "Dorian" Age, but also a forward-looking one to a more permissive time. That Dorian and Lord Henry contain elements of John Gray and Lord Ronald Gower: does not begin to account for the complexity of these characters or for their vibrancy on the page.
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on 14 July 2017
I read this beautiful collection of tales as a child and was so moved by them that I had to read them again. Whilst the author, the great Oscar Wild plays down the morality aspect, one should not lose sight of it when reading, for the delightful tales are full of meaning and caution. Highly recommended reading indeed for young and not so young!
Do also listen to the audio version which adds great value to the reading and listening experience.
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on 21 June 2013
A Picture of Dorian Grey is about evil influences of friends, about a culture of perpetual youth and about pursuing the needs of the body over those of the heart and head.
Through his artist friend, Basil's portrait of him, Dorian learns to appreciate beauty and makes a wish that he will remain forever young and beautiful. His wish is granted but he rejects Basil's friendship because he is mesmerised by Harry's wit. Harry is a cynical serial seducer who bows to convention but deceives at will. Dorian falls in love with actress Sybil but abandons her as soon as she responds to his advances. Sybil commits suicide. Using his eternal good looks, Dorian explores all kinds of rich sensual experiences and because he looks like a celebrity he gets away with it. `Conscience is cowardice,' Harry tells him and Dorian believes this, burying his sense of responsibility for Sybil's death.
Villains are supposed to look evil and have deformities. Wilde has created an utterly shallow antihero whose appearance protects him from blame. Dorian lives out a reckless life of pleasure seeking while his `soul', Basil's portrait, safely hidden in the nursery, accumulates wrinkles and faults.
In a modern setting he'd be a boy racer with a pimped up car or a gym fanatic with steroid-boosted muscles. Basil and Sybil's family come to grief and Dorian's past eventually catches up with him.
The scenes are dramatic and the cleverly worked plot is convincing. All the characters emulate Harry's Wildean paradoxical epigrams. But Wilde narrowly avoids a confrontation between Dorian and his enemies. The final scene is played out in the nursery with the destruction of the portrait.
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on 4 November 2011
We first meet Dorian Gray as a young man, precociously handsome and with a charming nature. He is having his portrait painted by the unassuming Basil Hallward when he first meets the cynical thinker, Lord Henry Wotton. Hallward adores Gray and is concerned by Wotton's influence over him but Gray himself hangs onto Wotton's every word and cannot help falling under his spell. Wotton manages to convince Gray that his looks are his most important asset and should be maintained and exploited as long as they last. This leads Gray to ponder the portrait and declare that he wishes his looks would remain and the portrait would age instead of him.

As time goes on Dorian Gray loses his pleasant nature and becomes a vain young man, succombing to vices of drink, drugs and women. His youthful looks remain and, to his horror, the handsome charmer in the portrait becomes less and less likeable as it ages. Gray gets away with cruelty and a lavish lifestyle as people cannot believe such a youthful and pleasant countenance can contain a rotten soul. To the reader this raises the question of how we perceive others by appearance alone - can we really judge a book by its cover? Are our looks, as we age, a reflection of the life we have led, whether we have been cruel or kind, selfish or generous? I think to an extent yes, we can look at people and see sadness in their eyes or the lines of a lifetime of laughter. Of course looks can be deceiving and we should never be quick to assume things about others.

One aspect of the novel that fascinates me is the action of the murderer. Having committed the most atrocious of crimes and got away without suspicion, the murderer cannot help but give himself away. A mixture of disbelief and revulsion takes over and he needs to repent somehow whilst still having the instinct for self-preservation - telling people outright that he did it, knowing they won't believe him. It reminds me a little of Raskolnikov in Crime & Punishment and his struggle to hold himself together and his need to pay for his crime.

This is a wonderful novel, full of Wilde's philosophy and imagination. It goes off on tangents now and again but the force of the novel as a whole is immense. The story is humorous, surprising and tragic and has a fitting and dramatic ending. Definitely a book that everyone should read.
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on 25 January 2017
I had read this years ago and seemed to remember liking it. Having just read it again, I would say it takes a bit of getting into, then its very interesting, then there are chapters of descriptive writing which though excellent of course, are a bit boring, then it becomes interesting again. No one can write quite like him and I find myself continually smiling at the things he says which are so true of human nature. I would say this book is not for everyone, but I would recommend it.
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on 7 July 2014
I know I know I've only given it 3 stars (how could I?!) don't get me wrong, I love Wilde, no-one can turn a phrase better, and the plot is of course engaging; a classic. I just feel that he's better with brevity. Plays, poems and letters he does well, but a novel is a platform he should not be given as he does literally wax lyrical for pages at a time in a manner that, while technically impressive, feels self-important, even (aptly) narcissistic. I have no doubt that conceit is an author's prerogative, but after four (or was it five?) pages of in-depth description of each and every object in the extensive collection bought by Mr Gray over his life I did feel like Wilde was just, well, showing off. At first it was interesting, then it was tongue-in-cheek, then it was boring, then it was vulgar.

But honestly though, you should actually read it. Dickens didn't know when start new sentences and Shakespeare made up his own words but that hasn't stopped them.
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on 15 October 2011
I decided to have a quick peruse of the one star ratings before writing this review, as I was intrigued to know why people felt so negative towards The Picture of Dorian Gray. Whilst I do agree with some of the criticisms, on the whole this is a beautiful piece of classic literature and the Kindle version is relatively well formatted (could do with page breaks on chapter starts).

This was Oscar Wilde's only novel and upon reading it, I'm not entirely surprised. The narrative is largely driven by dialogue / monologue, although this isn't necessarily a problem. The characters are shallow, aristocratic types, obsessed with fine living and aesthetics, which was precisely what Wilde intended. True, it is often difficult to identify with them, apart from the artist who painted the portrait itself perhaps. The opening chapters are beautifully homoerotic, in the sense that Wilde clearly couldn't overtly describe the interactions between the characters; thus, the language used cleverly hints at the relationships for what they are and this is actually rather a nice change from the contemporary 'in your face' approach.

The only bit I didn't enjoy comes somewhere in the middle, where Wilde sets about describing Dorian Gray's love of things - fabrics, gemstones etc. etc. ad nauseum. After a couple of pages of this I did feel like skipping to the next part.

Otherwise I found this novel almost addictive, to the extent that I even used the experimental text to speech to listen to some of it in the car on the way to work (an interesting experience). It does come to a very abrupt end, which is odd, considering the extensive description and elaboration given to everything else.

All in all, given that the Kindle edition is free and the novel is historically of some importance (as well as being a clever idea), it has to be worth a read. It left me disappointed that Oscar Wilde didn't write more novels, although the reviews here cover the whole range of opinions, so this is definitely one that is in the eye of the beholder.
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