Monday, September 26, 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Review

It has taken me some time to get to write this review but here it is. As I've said previously, I'm on a quest to read as many classic books as I can and being that horror is my favourite genre, Dorian Gray's story couldn't be too far down on my list.

I'll begin by saying I did enjoy the book. The story is interesting and starts very promising as a conversation between a Lord and an artist develop seemingly unrelated to the topic of the book, but very soon they sell you on the mystery of this beautiful and innocent young man. You're hooked and can't look away from what becomes the horrible downward spiral in which the central character goes.

The narrative is heavy at times and there are whole arguments that feel like mere means to express the believes of the author, a little preachy to me, but not in the 'be good' kind of preachy, but in a justification that Wild gives for the acts committed by his characters. I explain. As a writer, when you think of a story and how it evolves, you have to find logic in what your characters believe and do; when these actions are a little outrageous or anti-natura, you have to work harder to sell the action to your readers. One way of doing it is to have the characters explain themselves in often long, tedious, unnatural speeches. However, if you move forward a couple of paragraphs the action restarts and the fall continues casting its spell on the reader in the same way we can't part eyes from a car crash on the road.

The supernatural aspect of the story is the portrait, of course, which makes few appearances but has a clear effect on the way Dorian behaves. It is an extraordinary book that made it clear to me why it had stayed on the public's mind for such a long time. It has suspense, pain, horror, mystery, and a heavy dose of philosophical undertones that leave you thinking about Dorian Gray's choices, the reason why the picture became his undoing, and why, to begin with, it became haunted.

The story has been adapted to film so many times it could make your head spin, which in this case, it's not so good. For those who haven't read it, it's almost impossible to escape its mentioning here or there with spooks or spin offs (The League of Extraordinary Men, anyone?) that makes you have a series of expectations that will, invariably, not be met because the piece does not fit in our current preconceptions of horror. Make no mistake, it is a greatly woven story with dark, twisted characters and horror that creeps under your skin not because there is blood and guts everywhere but because of the very real possibility to find a flawed human being like these in your neighbourhood.

All in all, a very recommendable piece, especially for the young. If you haven't read it, don't miss it, if you have, well, any day is a good day to revisit it.

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