My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
If a book cannot be immoral, is it the fault of the man that is corruptly influenced by it? This is one of the many questions that Lord Henry– an unlikeable but fascinating character that Oscar Wilde dreamed up– provokes in The Picture of Dorian Gray. As he succeeds in influencing the thinking of Dorian Gray– who is beautiful and pure when we first meet him– I sense my own thinking altered by Lord Henry, the incorrigible intellectual.
I very much enjoyed Wilde’s prose, which was decorated by pleasant fragrances and hyperbolic utterances. The ideas this book proposed were fun to think about, even if I ultimately did not agree with them. This is not the type of book that gets on with all kinds of people and I won’t fault it for that, but I will admit that it got pretentious and dry towards the end, when years pass for Dorian Gray and he becomes more corrupt. The first half and the ending to the book had a lovely mix of philosophical waxing and an interesting plot to keep the characters going. It’s the 3/4 section of the book that read like a Philosophy thesis and dragged on too long for my taste.
Wilde did one other thing beautifully: he created imagery that is sure to stay in my head for a long time.
“What of Art?
-It is a malady.
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
–You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
–What are you?
-To define is to limit.”