'The Picture of Dorian Gray': An Amateur Review

I like to think I'm well-read, but in reality, I've only read a few classics to satisfy my classicist ego (it works).

However, when I do eventually muster up the courage to start a novel that sounds way more complicated than it should, I pat myself on the back if I can stay focused and get through it in less than a month.

The Context

When I picked up The Picture of Dorian Gray, I knew the name Oscar Wilde sounded familiar. An actor? No... a singer? Definitely not. Ah yes, a famous poet. It turns out, he also wrote a novel, and it got heavily criticized for suggestive content (let's just say it was pretty Wilde for the late 19th century).

In case you're unfamiliar with the book (I did not know it existed, although, apparently, it is famous), the plot goes like so: A painter named Basil Hallward adores painting his muse, a gorgeous and respectable young man in English society named Dorian Gray.

Things go awry when one of the paintings Basil draws of Mr. Gray starts to age instead of the man himself, concealing his wrinkly sins.

This happens because Mr. Gray meets Lord Henry, who takes the pure, innocent Mr. Gray and tarnishes him, like any club floor tarnishes innocent white shoes.

For the majority of the novel, Gray lives a hedonistic life without consequence, which later reveals to be not as pretty as Dorian's face.

The Good

Overall, the writing was extremely colorful.

Lord Henry would go on long philosophical rants -- sometimes controversial ones -- that framed life in comically simple ways.

Some of my favorite Lord Henry quotes:

“Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.” (Page 47)

“When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy.” (page 76)

“To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.” (page 206)

If you're a fan of witty humor and subtle insults, you'll find the book funny.

Although white men trash-talking in the 19th century doesn't compete with Kevin Hart making short jokes, it does add a much-needed lightness to the novel. 

The ending was satisfying.

My morals wanted to dive off the edge of a very tall cliff for most of the book because Dorian and Mr. Henry were not very ethical people.

But, it was talked off the edge during the last few pages when fairness redeemed itself, although you'll have to read it for yourself to find out how. 

The Bad

Unfortunately, the first two quarters of the novel were extremely slow-paced, and I had to fight through historical descriptions of how the Sobieski bed of Poland's king was "made of Smyrna gold embroidered in turquoises with verses from the Koran" and how "Henry II wore jeweled gloves reaching to the elbow, and had a hawk-glove sewn with twelve rubies and fifty-two great orients."

Those eight (eight!) pages of jewelry and embroidery descriptions may seem interesting to some, but for me it was a trek through a narrow, darkening forest.

Also, the book is not politically correct, so if you're easily offended, it might be hard to write hate-mail to fictional characters and/or Mr. Wilde. 

My Amateur Opinion

I suggest reading the book perched in an elaborate armchair overlooking the archives of an ancient library. Oh, you don't have that at your disposal? Well, reading by candle light in your windowless bathroom will do.

Personally, I read the novel out by the pool, and I have to say, that was so not the vibe.

Overall, I recommend the book for those who like feeling phenomenally quotable conversations, feeling smart and debating life's values.

If you like classics, this will be an easy read because it's quite short -- only about 250 pages.

If you're looking for a cute romance where men treat women with respect, you probably won't like The Picture of Dorian Gray. But try the Nicolas Sparks isle?

P.S. Hedonism: The pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.