Thursday, October 30, 2008

On "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde **

So I just returned from a road trip, which means that most of the reading I've been doing in the last couple of weeks is via good old books on tape or CD. Most of what I "read" (or, rather, listened to) in the car was via the public domain archive Project Gutenberg. Wilde's book, one I've been intending to get around to for over a decade, was the first. What can I say? I was disappointed. Is it fair for me to be disappointed by it? I'm not sure.

I'm recalling seeing The Godfather for the first time, another slight disappointment, and I'm wondering if this might not be a similar case. What happened with The Godfather was that I'd seen so many interesting bits and pieces and heard so many things about it that I expected much. But The Godfather is such a iconic movie that films thereafter have often copied its various techniques and plot points. Seeing it for the first time, I felt like it was full of cliches. Such was also the case with The Picture of Dorian Gray. I'd never read it, but I'd heard the whole story before, many, many times, and now, finally reading the original, it lacked much oomph. Beyond that, Victorian dialogue, with its paragraphs of discussion, seems so unrealistic, even bad, to my modern ear that at times it was hard to put up with Mr. Wilde, even if the reader himself did a rather remarkable job of making his voice seem lively and clear. You can download the text here, and the audio book here.

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