The Picture of Dorian Gray.


Sensual. There is so much dense religious and aesthetic philosophy in this book that, years later, I’ll probably still be unwrapping it as I lie in perfect idleness upon my divan under the golden afternoon sun. Yet it doesn’t feel that way because the writing is so sensual. Page after page of two people talking to each other about art, yet I burned for more. Just speak at me, Lord Henry, you steam-age Mephistopheles, you cacodemon of the club.

I have the feeling that if this had been written, say, in 1991, one hundred years later, we would have been subjected to some awful mysticism, an explanation of the link between Dorian and Picture. Authors love to explain things, but not here. The picture is not the story; the picture is the genesis of the story. The picture is the stakes. The picture is man qua art. But the story of a young man and his corruptor has no business with the why or how of Eternal Youth and the Corporeal Soul. And it was so pleasant not reading a single word about it.

Ars longa, vita brevis. Basil Hallward puts part of himself into his painting. Sibyl Vane becomes art each night on the stage. Dorian Gray, perhaps, has a painting for a soul. Yet all die young. I wish I felt like I understood everything that is at work in this novel, but I don’t. It’s likely to become one I revisit again and again as directed by how morose my outlook is. Because it is, on the whole, dismal. No character escapes from it untraumatized and I, the reader, am just left wanting more.