Monday, May 5, 2008

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Source: Librivox
Length: 6 hr, 20 min
Reader: John Gonzalez

The book: As I was listening to this book, I was surprised that The Picture of Dorian Gray could have ever been published in the Victorian Age. Apparently, the book did cause quite a stir when it was first printed (see Wikipedia). The version recorded here, the 13 chapter version, debuted in a London magazine in 1890 but was amended and expanded for the 1891 book version, with much of the alterations going toward downplaying the homosexual overtones.

The plot concerns Dorian Gray, a beautiful young man who is much admired by other young men with whom he associates. Dorian's portrait is painted by his artist friend Basil. Upon viewing the painting he wishes that it rather than he would take on the cares of age. Basil's friend Lord Henry soon entices Dorian into a hedonistic lifestyle, only caring about the pursuit of beauty and pleasure. As Dorian sinks deeper into depravity, his portrait turns uglier and more menacing, but he retains his good looks. What Dorian's depravity exactly entails is not fully disclosed, but one could suspect that it would be enough to outrage any good Victorian gentleman. With a little imagination and reading between the lines, this novel still has the power to shock even for a jaded 21st century reader.

Rating: 7/10

The reader: John Gonzalez has a strong voice with an American accent. He reads as if on stage, with a dramatic affectation that could be overdone, but in my mind is appropriate for a work by Oscar Wilde. Although his different voices are not vastly different, he distinguishes them by acting each part. There are some noises in the recording, such as when Gonzalez takes a breath or swallows. Overall, this is a good amateur reading.


Jeff Miller said...

Oscar Wilde was part of the Decadent movement and by far this is his greatest book. It is interesting that many of the authors of the Decandent movement ending up in the Catholic Church just as Wilde did when he entered the Church on his deathbed.

Listener said...

Fascinating! I think I had heard of the Decadent Movement, but hadn't realized many of them became Catholic. I wonder why Catholicism appealed to them when most of the population around them was Anglican?