Dorian Gray: First impressions

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Dorian Gray: First impressions

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jan 21, 2014, 3:42 pm

Thoughts on Picture of Dorian Gray as you're starting to read/still reading? Post them here.

Spoilers should be hidden using a "spoiler" HTML tag, please.

jan 21, 2014, 5:05 pm

About 5 chapters in, it's hard to imagine how this book will be very haunting, what with Lord Henry cracking wise every few seconds. It's like a Gothic novel written by Groucho Marx.

jan 22, 2014, 7:38 am

I disliked it when I read it.

jan 22, 2014, 9:49 am

>2 cpg: Now that you've said that, I can't get it out of my head. Hilarious, and entirely accurate to my experience with it, too.

Redigerat: jan 22, 2014, 11:20 am

George Sanders played Lord Henry in the movie version and hit that note of menacing charm absolutely right.

Ooops, thought YouTube had the whole movie up there for free, but they've taken it down. You can rent it for a couple bucks.

(Edited to correct link)

Redigerat: feb 10, 2014, 11:29 am


jan 23, 2014, 8:07 pm

I've never been fond of the types of books we used to have to read in English class, so I was expecting this to be slow reading. I started it on the bus on the way to work today, and managed to read about half of it on the hour there, 20 minutes of lunch, and an hour home, which is slow reading for me, but much faster than I thought I'd be getting through it.

jan 26, 2014, 3:43 pm

Classics are always a bit too wordy for me, & this was no exception. I could have done without the long, drawn-out explanations/descriptions of Dorian's various hobbies, but I will say I enjoyed the book.

jan 26, 2014, 9:10 pm

I did a paper on this book in college because it was one of my favorite novels. I've always liked books that were weird like those of Poe and Wilde. On the reread this time I noticed that Wilde had a great sense of humor, at least in the first part of the book. It does get a bit "bogged down" toward the second half.

jan 27, 2014, 7:20 pm

It is a bit wordy in the late 19th century way, and I think Wilde is the 19th century equivalent to Michael Chabon or Dave Eggers

jan 29, 2014, 9:00 am

"Ho, ho," I thought, "Criticizing authors for being wordy is like criticizing Mozart for using too many notes." I mean, the more words we can get from masters of the language, the better, right? Then I got to Chapter 11 of Dorian Gray. It's the most blatant example of padding I've ever encountered in a classic novel. It's the literary equivalent of reading the phone book into the record during a filibuster.

jan 29, 2014, 10:34 am

11> Thank you for that...

jan 29, 2014, 11:10 am

I started reading DG while I was waiting for an appointment and just couldn't seem to get started. I think this is because people were blatantly using cell phones beneath the "no cell phone" sign, playing games that included rather startling sound effects, and children playing. The children playing were the least bothersome, but the personal cell phone calls were hard to tune out.

(Do people really not care that everyone in the room knows their personal business? The gentleman who was talking to someone about paying his bill claimed to be at work, which about 20 of us knew he wasn't. Sheesh.)

So, I'll give it another start when I have fewer distractions. The style of language needs more concentration that I was able to give it.

jan 29, 2014, 12:11 pm

I read Dorian Gray a few years ago and will reread before the discussion starts but I thought I would say something about the chapter that people are referring to at the moment. The following is copied from the review I wrote the first time I read the book.

In one chapter I became increasingly frustrated reading about a seemingly endless list of jewels and fabrics. I was wondering when the subject would change, but even this adds to the story. The sheer ennui of plodding through the list reflects the desperate attempt of Dorian to feel anything; an attempt to regain a zest for life.

Redigerat: jan 29, 2014, 12:38 pm

>14 calm: Aestheticism of the time period focuses quite heavily on meaningless objects. It still does. I think it adds a certain texture to the book (even though it might smell a little dated at this point). À rebours (Against Nature) is completely filled with exorbitant descriptions, and I believe Wilde draws from it. It's protagonist, Jean des Esseintes, retreats to a small manor and indulge in beautiful objects, perfume, etc. Nothing much happens plot wise. Very strange read; I recommend as a background to the movement, along with much different work, Marius the Epicurean by Walter Pater.

jan 29, 2014, 1:48 pm

The edition I'm reading has sparse footnotes in chapters 1 through 10, and then about 200 footnotes in chapter 11. As I recall, some of those footnotes pinpoint the exhibit catalogs and merchant catalogs that Wilde seemed to be using when writing chapter 11. It reminds me of Capote's quip: "That's not writing: that's typing." IMO, chapter 11 is bankrupt of literary worth. (Sorry.)

jan 29, 2014, 5:47 pm

14: Good observation under the spoiler link!

jan 30, 2014, 12:19 am

Geez, take it easy on the furniture!

"And Lord Henry flung himself down on the divan and opened his cigarette-case." (Chapter 2)

"Lord Henry flung himself into a large wicker arm-chair and watched him." (Chapter 2)

"The hot tears welled into his eyes; he tore his hand away and, flinging himself on the divan, he buried his face in the cushions, as though he was praying." (Chapter 2)

"As the door closed behind them, the painter flung himself down on a sofa, and a look of pain came into his face." (Chapter 2)

"Then he lit a cigarette and flung himself down on the sofa." (Chapter 4)

"He flung himself down on the sofa and turned away his face." (Chapter 7)

"He threw himself into a chair and began to think." (Chapter 7)

"Then he rose from the table, lit a cigarette, and flung himself down on a luxuriously cushioned couch that stood facing the screen." (Chapter 8)

"He went towards the little, pearl-coloured octagonal stand that had always looked to him like the work of some strange Egyptian bees that wrought in silver, and taking up the volume, flung himself into an arm-chair and began to turn over the leaves." (Chapter 10)

"'What is it all about?' cried Dorian in his petulant way, flinging himself down on the sofa." (Chapter 12)

"Then he flung himself into the rickety chair that was standing by the table and buried his face in his hands." (Chapter 13)

"He sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library, and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said to him." (Chapter 20)

jan 30, 2014, 3:04 am

18> LOL! I noticed that, too.

jan 30, 2014, 9:49 am

>18 cpg: LOL thank you for noticing that. All of a sudden I like the book so much more.

I'm about 47% through the novel according to the Kindle. I was bored at first by the over-the-top descriptions and endless chatter and thought I wouldn't enjoy the book. I Googled up a little on Oscar Wilde and aestheticism and found that interesting. With a little more background, I went back to Dorian Gray and as I read on I find myself being drawn in.

jan 30, 2014, 10:37 am

>18 cpg: Not just the furniture, but all the flinging!

jan 30, 2014, 10:38 am

Am I sure I want to read this flinging book??

jan 30, 2014, 3:30 pm

Homoerotic, but I guess that's to be expected.

jan 30, 2014, 3:57 pm

> Rich find, cpg! Wilde and his couch:

jan 30, 2014, 11:24 pm

So far, I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would, but I do find all the footnotes in my edition distracting.

jan 31, 2014, 5:42 am

>24 matthewmason: Yes, but what I want to know is, did he FLING himself on it?? Bwahahahaha!

jan 31, 2014, 10:59 am


Redigerat: feb 1, 2014, 10:22 am

I dunno, he looks more flopped than flung.

We are just starting and I have to say I love books that make you take the time to read them like this. People don't talk the way they used to and they don't write the way they used to either. There is something in communication that is lost when we make everything so casual and short. A great example of that is Sleepy Hollow on TV. Ichabod is from back in the days of the Boston Tea Party, flung into the here and now. He is flummoxed by a lot of what we say, but learns quickly, however he is also teaching the others to think about what they say. If you have not seen this show, it's worth it, just to hear him leave voice mail messages as if they were real mail and talk to people through NorthStar as if they were there in the room with him.

Phone message here:
NorthStar here:

There is nothing like the piling up of words from the olden days, in my opinion. I just love it and I can't wait to dive into this book for this reason above all else. :)

feb 1, 2014, 11:20 am

I'm about a third of the way in and while I'm enjoying the reading there is one major character I'm not liking very much.

feb 2, 2014, 3:07 pm

I'm highlighting (on my Kindle) a lot of phrases that sound so clever to me. At some point, however, I feel that Wilde is really full of himself and is sharing his own overblown views with the reader. That can get tiresome for me.
I am reading this with no prior knowledge of the author, only a basic idea of the plot.

feb 3, 2014, 3:53 pm

I'm about halfway through. This book is certainly full of misogyny. I realize that at the time women weren't really valued for much more than breeding stock, but I must say the views of women expressed by the main characters are making this book very difficult for me to enjoy. None of the characters are garnering much sympathy from me. They all seem quite full of themselves.

feb 4, 2014, 11:51 am

Finished Dorian Gray (reread), started À Rebours (also reread), which is partially inspired by the life of Robert de Montesquiou, who was converted into the personage Baron de Charlus by Proust. According to Richard Ellman's Oscar Wilde, Wilde was already greatly influenced by À Rebours when it was first published in 1884.

feb 4, 2014, 2:01 pm

My first impression -- more humorous than I expected, but what a bunch of twits. And also, already quite a bit of flinging.

feb 5, 2014, 11:43 pm

>14 calm: Thanks for that. I was so bored reading that chapter, I know I wasn't paying proper attention. Okay, Wilde, you made a good point...sorry I missed it!!

feb 5, 2014, 11:47 pm

>29 hailelib:
Will you share you run favorite character? I'm definitely tired of Lord Harry!

feb 5, 2014, 11:50 pm

I finished the book and was shocked at how little I remembered....and how even less was remembered correctly.

Did anyone read the unabridged version? Since I got a free kindle one for my iPad, I'm sure it wasn't. Was the homosexuality blatant?

feb 6, 2014, 8:25 pm

>29 hailelib: "there is one major character I'm not liking very much"

>31 Danean: "None of the characters are garnering much sympathy from me"

>33 TooBusyReading: "what a bunch of twits"

For me, a novel has to have some other outstanding aspect if it's going to make up for a dearth of admirable characters. I can't think what that outstanding aspect of Dorian Gray might be. Novel insights into the human condition? No. Masterful use of the language? No. It's appeal escapes me.

feb 6, 2014, 10:09 pm

>16 cpg:

When I mentioned the sources that Wilde "seemed to be using while writing chapter 11", I was apparently being too generous. That he copied verbatim from various books on embroideries, tapestries, gemstones, etc., is apparently well-documented, in particular in the OUP edition of his complete works.

feb 7, 2014, 12:30 am

I thought chapter 11 would never end.

feb 7, 2014, 4:23 pm

I cant stand Lord Henry and even Dorian is becoming just as big of an azz.

feb 8, 2014, 12:48 am

>40 ALWINN: They were all a bunch of rich, self-absorbed fops, IMO.

feb 8, 2014, 10:37 am

I tried reading it, I really did. I just got so bored. I told myself I *should* be reading Dorian Gray before I got on with my other reads - end result? I went nearly a week without reading anything because I just couldn't be bothered. It's not very often I give up on a book. I was really looking forward to reading it as well, it's supposed to be so good. Does it get any better? Should I have persevered?

feb 8, 2014, 11:57 am

>42 eclecticdodo: I'm sorry to say, you won't be missing much if you don't finish it. My least favorite book so far this year...

feb 9, 2014, 9:49 am

Ugh, Wotten is a bored, pompous, long winded and jealous man, Dorian, naive and easily influenced and I'm only on Chapter Three!

feb 9, 2014, 10:11 am

I lack the cultural and literary context for intelligent discussion, and doubt that I’ll participate much beyond lurking. I didn’t expect to like or dislike the characters, or really to be engaged at all with them as people, and I wasn’t; I read them more as exemplifying attitudes. Initially I was highlighting (an e-book) Lord Henry, but that got to be tiresomely frequent, and when Dorian says “You would sacrifice anybody, Harry, for the sake of an epigram.”, I laughed. I assume that I’ve missed a lot in ignorance. I’ll read the Wikipedia article, but that’s about all I have time for.

I wonder whether “fist impressions” is quite the right approach for pre-discussion? Seems that along with discussion after the fact, it’d be helpful to have guides along the way, especially when the book is a classic and outside the experience of modern readers. Perhaps a thread with opportunity for people who know something to say “this is important because...” or “look for this...”. I realize that some people prefer to read a novel uncontaminated by any commentary, but they could avoid such a thread.

feb 9, 2014, 11:43 am

I am on Chapter 11 right now and am going to invoke the rule of 50 on this chapter and proceed forward.

I am reading on Kindle and listening to Michael Page. He does a nice job. I think there should be a special edition audio with Charlie Brown's teacher reading chapter 11.

feb 9, 2014, 3:36 pm

#45 I agree, qebo. It would be wonderful if someone knowledgeable shared their expertise with links and helpful readings. One thing that I have learned is that Wilde rewrote the book and added at least 6 or 7 chapters in attempt to appease critics. Perhaps the tighter original version would be more appealing to a modern audience.

feb 9, 2014, 9:30 pm

>46 luvamystery65: luva:

LOL re chapter 11 being read by Charlie Brown's teacher!! Thanks for the smile!

feb 9, 2014, 9:51 pm

#48 kaulsu

You are welcome for the smile! It is much needed for chapter 11.


feb 10, 2014, 10:44 am

I have to say, I had to trudge through the entire book. I couldn't understand why anyone would write 3 long paragraphs about gems. Oscar Wilde was never one of my favortie authors but I wanted to make it all the way through this book.
By the end, I'm glad I read it and I can see why he's been called a genius of an author. Sadly, I pretty much guessed everything that would happen. As for the portrait and Dorian, I found Edgar Allan Poe's story more haunting.

feb 10, 2014, 11:56 am

I was very surprised by who entered the story in chapter 4, I'm betting Dorian was taken aback too!

feb 10, 2014, 3:07 pm

Favorite quote, “If I could get back my youth, I'd do anything in the world except get up early, take exercise or be respectable.”

feb 10, 2014, 3:40 pm

Post it to thread for one-liners, too:

feb 10, 2014, 4:51 pm

Dorian Gray: First impressions - I found it interesting that several times Harry and Basil were referred to as young men. Dorian was called a "lad" and even said he hadn't come of age (?) when he proposed to Sybil, but the "young" references were actually helpful as I thought Harry and Basil both came across as older men.

feb 17, 2014, 12:05 am

I also had to keep reminding myself that Harry and Basil were not older men.

But then think about it. I remember being 19 and having an older friend. She was so nice to me...and she was 24.

Another case, perhaps, of Wilde "getting" more than we readers credit him for?

feb 19, 2014, 12:08 am

I think the descriptions of the men lead us to believe that though Basil and Harry were not older men, since Dorian was referred to as a "lad," both were older than Dorian. Basil and Harry are young men and Dorian is not yet a man (to begin with).

feb 19, 2014, 7:26 am

Somehow I had the impression that Basil was the oldest with Lord Henry a little younger and Dorian several years younger.

feb 19, 2014, 3:22 pm

Finally finished reading. I actually found a lot of Henry's observations in the beginning of the book to be interesting and thought-provoking so I'm glad I read the book. Dorian was an utter disappointment though, he struck me as being a rich, self-centered, entitled brat. The part about his hobbies was also pretty boring, I ended up skimming it.

Overall though, I did enjoy the book. I kinda trudged through the first half but couldn't put it down after I got to the middle. Definitely glad I read it.