Today we’ll talk about the book that started it all. It was the first book I ever read because I wanted to (not because I had to), and it’s the only book I’ve read three times. I remember I was eleven years old and I had just seen the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and I wanted to read the books referenced there and I thought, why not start with that one character?
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
The book opens with a conversation between sensitive painter Basil Hallward and his cynical friend Lord Henry Wotton, in which they discuss Basil’s latest work: the portrait of a young beautiful man. Basil is completely obsesses with said young man, but he’s afraid to introduce him to Lord Henry because he knows that Lord Henry’s ideas are quite alarming and could corrupt the boy’s innocence. His fear comes true when Dorian Gray enters the studio to sit for the last details of the portrait and, fascinated by Lord Henry’s personality, insists he stay and talk to him. That day, thanks to the portrait and to Lord Henry’s remarks, Dorian finally becomes aware of his own beauty, and, knowing that he will never be as perfect as he is now, tearfully claims to be capable of selling his own soul if that meant he could trade places with the portrait and stay young forever.
In this novel, Oscar Wilde painted his own picture of the human soul. The reader can clearly see how curiosity and desire lead a pure soul to absolute corruption. Written in an agile, thoughtful way, this book is about obsession, transgression, duplicity and art.
This is a book that I can read over and over again, and I always find new things. If you have not read it, you totally should. If you’ve only seen the movie… please read the book. It’s so much better.