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The Portrait of Dorian Gray

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My wonderfully intelligent book club voted on this book for February. I’d read a lot of Oscar Wilde, but not this one.

As far as I know, it’s his only novel.

It had all kinds of interesting philosophical propositions in it. Like, what is the value of physical beauty when compared to beauty of the soul?
And, how much of our motivation to do the right things stems from whether we will be caught?

But one of the things that made this book delightful to read was the razor wit of Oscar Wilde.

Those late Victorians were just fabulous at turning a phrase on a pin. Gilbert & Sullivan spring to mind.

So wicked and most of the time, so true!

The book was a lot of fun, but it was weighty too. It was a good book to have a discussion about.

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  • I’ve read a bit of Oscar Wilde – mostly short fairytales (which are beautiful), but I didn’t come around to this masterpiece yet. I should put it on my reading list – it wasn’t that long.

  • Eric Olsen

    I imagine I was too brief and not specific enough – there are humorous elements but the main theme is dark and serious. It was supposed to be a compliment to Wilde’s work, which is not taken as seriously as it might be.

  • I completely disagree, Eric! There is a lot that is funny in this story. Wilde revelled in contradictions.

    One of the genius points in this book is how well interlaced the dark horrifying bits are with the light humorous bits.

    The light bits are like the brilliant beautiful blue tips of the iceberg poking above the unseen scary body underneath.

  • Eric Olsen

    Today Wilde is mostly known for being a fop, a wit, and a comedian. TPODG is deeply penetrating and disturbingly powerful, nothing light or funny about it.

  • Dew

    I recently saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and took it upon myself to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. Being somewhat (and somewhat, being somewhat of an understatement) of a philosophy buff, I must admit I loved the novel.

    My fav line: The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion – these are the two things that govern us.

  • Excellent book. I was just reminiscing over it with my sister as a matter of fact. A few favorite lines:

    “But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives.”

    “Conscience makes egotists of us all”

    “It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.”

    “The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”