Thursday, March 3, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday - The Picture of Dorian Gray



It's Thursday! And I'm sitting at the library, hoping to get some work done for work...and also some Project 84 work done. I always seem to work better in a neutral setting, without the distractions of my house.

That being said, there is a local opera company about to perform 25 feet away from me...so it's safe to say I only have about 18 minutes before the lack of distraction idea becomes moot.

Opera is sort of a fitting backdrop, however, for today's #ThrowbackThursday post. For today, I'll be taking you back to the late 1800s. To a time of dandys and fops, a time of Victorian idealism and aestheticism (wasn't sure if that's a word, delighted to discover it is)...

And, in my life, it takes me back to being 16-years-old, ready to devour anything and everything even somewhat intellectual. I'm delighted by varying philosophies, still trying to figure out my own opinion, and I pick up a book that would change a lot of things for me: The Picture of Dorian Gray.



Every Literature student is drawn to the subject for a different reason. We all love to read, of course...but there's always that one author, that one inspiration that made you want to dive into that specific course of study. For some, it's Charles Dickens...others, Jane Austen (God knows why)...others, Shakespeare..

For me, it was Oscar Wilde. (And Shakespeare, but that's for another blog post...)

It started for me at 16-years-old when I picked up the movie Velvet Goldmine from my local Blockbuster. (Yep.) I had heard about it as "the movie where Jonathan Rhys Meyers gets naked with Ewan McGregor", so it wasn't a tough choice for me...

It's hard to explain the brilliance that is Velvet Goldmine if you haven't seen it. It's a movie about glam rock and glitter, about being young, about being yourself. It's strange and beautiful...one of my favorites. But this post isn't about Velvet Goldmine...it's about a little, 150 page novel that plays a small, tangential role in the movie. But it was this quote, spoken halfway through the film, that inspired me to pick up the novel:
"The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history."
Oh, this book...it's hard for me to speak of it without just gushing and being ridiculous, but it's the kind of book that inspires you to do that.

The plot is simple on the surface: a young man, Dorian Gray, wishes that a portrait of himself would age while he can remain the same. As Dorian travels on a path of hedonism and violence, he remains young and beautiful, while the painting becomes increasingly deformed and ugly with his horrible deeds.

So why do I love this book? It's tough to explain... It's beautifully written, so there's that. Everything Wilde is beautifully written. But there's a complexity to this book that I still haven't managed to resolve over 12 years later. It's always been tough for me to figure out what the point of this book is. At it's surface, it's a sort of morality tale...but knowing Oscar Wilde the way I now do, it's hard to believe he would write a true morality tale. Quite the opposite, most of me thinks that Oscar wrote to glorify Dorian, not condemn him...which brings up the ultimate question that led me down my literary path:

Do the effect of a piece of writing and the author's intention need to be synonymous?

If I hadn't chosen my more lucrative profession, I probably would have spent my 20s buried in Irish libraries writing a dissertation on the Aesthetics and Oscar Wilde...instead, I chose a career in sports journalism, and my fascination is relegated to #ThrowbackThursday posts on my literary blog.

If you haven't read The Picture of Dorian Gray, I can't recommend it enough. Read it, and then read everything else by Oscar Wilde. I'm biased, I know it, but I can't help myself. It's in my top 5 books of all time (probably top 2), and it's one of those novels I can read over and over again and always find something new.

Now, the opera's 10 minutes into their performance, and I should probably find my way to the library exit. Happy reading, everyone!

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