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I have read this story countless times, seen two film versions and even a stage play, but like many other people this story has stayed with me long after I have closed the book, and I thus come back to it again and again. This is the only novel by Oscar Wilde and if you follow the publication history of this you will see why that probably is. What Wilde wrote was originally censored for its publication in a magazine, and then Wilde re-wrote and extended the tale for its final book publication, which is what we are presented with here. Originally when this story first appeared in ‘Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine’ it caused a bit of an outrage and the story was also used against Wilde when he was prosecuted.

Nowadays though, with all the things we are presented with in the media and what we see on the internet some will consider this very tame. Although arguably it has never been what is mentioned in the tale, it is what is hinted at and how good your imagination can be.

I expect most people who decide to read this will already be quite familiar with the tale and so know the main plot. Dorian Gray of the title is soon to come into money, is a bit vain, relatively kind hearted and means well, and very handsome, and then he meets Basil Hallward, an artist, who wishes to do his portrait. So far not much to write home about, although Basil obviously makes Dorian vainer, and there are definite tones of amorousness between the two, and then he meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry. As a friendship develops between Dorian and Lord Henry, Dorian is led into a more hedonistic lifestyle. What Dorian doesn’t realise though is that he has unwittingly entered into a Devilish Pact caused by the portrait of him. As Dorian’s life becomes more lurid, perverted and diabolical he never seems to age, but his portrait becomes something truly terrible to behold.

One of the reasons this works so well is that apart from a few details and some undertones of promiscuity between males and females we never really know what Dorian’s actual actions are. We know that to become involved with him can leave you tainted, but we have to use our imaginations to create what we think he gets up to. Another reason why this works and is still very popular today is due to the fact that it plays upon our vanities. With cosmetic surgery, Botox and numerous unguents that are supposed to make us stay looking young on the market, it would seem that many of us are afraid of getting a wrinkle or blemish. Indeed whilst this remains so then there is no reason to suppose this book will fall by the wayside. And on top of that this story is a really good read with some scintillating dialogue between the characters.
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In case this gets cross posted by Amazon this review is for the Wisehouse Classics edition, which has original illustrations here, which are certainly worth looking at. Although these show up perfectly okay on a normal kindle e-reader on a tablet device they can also be enlarged if you so desire.

I have read this story countless times, seen two film versions and even a stage play, but like many other people this story has stayed with me long after I have closed the book, and I thus come back to it again and again. This is the only novel by Oscar Wilde and if you follow the publication history of this you will see why that probably is. What Wilde wrote was originally censored for its publication in a magazine, and then Wilde re-wrote and extended the tale for its final book publication, which is what we are presented with here. Originally when this story first appeared in ‘Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine’ it caused a bit of an outrage and the story was also used against Wilde when he was prosecuted.

Nowadays though, with all the things we are presented with in the media and what we see on the internet some will consider this very tame. Although arguably it has never been what is mentioned in the tale, it is what is hinted at and how good your imagination can be.

I expect most people who decide to read this will already be quite familiar with the tale and so know the main plot. Dorian Gray of the title is soon to come into money, is a bit vain, relatively kind hearted and means well, and very handsome, and then he meets Basil Hallward, an artist, who wishes to do his portrait. So far not much to write home about, although Basil obviously makes Dorian vainer, and there are definite tones of amorousness between the two, and then he meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry. As a friendship develops between Dorian and Lord Henry, Dorian is led into a more hedonistic lifestyle. What Dorian doesn’t realise though is that he has unwittingly entered into a Devilish Pact caused by the portrait of him. As Dorian’s life becomes more lurid, perverted and diabolical he never seems to age, but his portrait becomes something truly terrible to behold.

One of the reasons this works so well is that apart from a few details and some undertones of promiscuity between males and females we never really know what Dorian’s actual actions are. We know that to become involved with him can leave you tainted, but we have to use our imaginations to create what we think he gets up to. Another reason why this works and is still very popular today is due to the fact that it plays upon our vanities. With cosmetic surgery, Botox and numerous unguents that are supposed to make us stay looking young on the market, it would seem that many of us are afraid of getting a wrinkle or blemish. Indeed whilst this remains so then there is no reason to suppose this book will fall by the wayside. And on top of that this story is a really good read with some scintillating dialogue between the characters.
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on 24 July 2017
Perfect, exquisite, everything that was promised to you. This one has quite a high degree of FOLLOW THROUGH. "Gray" is majestic, about the superficial love for oneself. It poses many questions, and as a book of ideas, perhaps the most innovatory in the latter part of the 19th century of them all, it is exactly what a reader wants. Absolute flawlessness, like the young Dorian himself. It's ESSENTIAL. Indeed, the pinnacle of Gay Lit. Comes to us in the rare tradition of too-good-to-be-true, actually-lives-up-to-the-hype literature canon.

The dialogue is rife with quotable lines... indeed Wilde succeeds in wit-- more so in the existential/anarchistic/dandy lines which are pretty much music to the ear. The quaint descriptions themselves are embedded with sadness--the pace & the story... You really couldn't possibly ask for anything else.
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When Dorian has his portrait painted by the brilliant artist Basil Hallward, he realises he will never look as young and beautiful as he does in that oil canvas. He will age and die, and it will stay forever young. Enraged by this he cries out a plea, selling his soul for an eternally youthful face. So the story follows Dorian as he walks down a path of destruction that ultimately leads to his downfall.

I love this book. I've read it so many times and it never ceases to amaze and fascinate me. It’s such a masterpiece. For starters it’s written in such a beautiful way, the language is so beautiful and is full of Wilde’s well known flourish and wit. It’s a wonderful example of a woeful Gothic tale.

The story also continually draws you in, more and more you wish for Dorian’s redemption, that eventually he will find his way back onto the right path and move away from such destruction. I think that’s a mark of how wonderful the book is, that even when all hope is lost, you still have hope for the character.

The book was seen as incredibly shocking when it was published and I can see why. Though it doesn’t go into explicit details about the kinds of behaviour Dorian resorts to, it’s not hard to conjure up some ideas. I think the book also goes a long way to criticise the society at the time and the way we very things like beauty.

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

The characters are great, not only Dorian, but Basil and Lord Henry, forever the angel and devil on Dorian’s shoulders, attempting to steer him in the right path. Oscar Wilde truly is a master of writing. I don’t know what it is about The Picture of Dorian Gray but I return to it again and again and each time I find something new or intriguing about the text. It’s a very readable book, especially for one written such a long time ago. If you are someone who is often put off by the word classic, this is definitely one to start with. It’s not a long winded tomb of a book, but a very suspenseful and exciting story.

I love the touch of supernatural in the story and the descriptions of Dorian’s portrait as it becomes marred and disfigured have always filled me with a sense of dread.

“I knew nothing but shadows and I thought them to be real.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a book that is beloved by many, and I think that alone stands as testament to what a fascinating book it truly is.
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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 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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