Wednesday 31 October 2012

LLBG October

This month we have been reading The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.  Although this is a book that everyone 'should' have read, it was one of the many books on my 'to read' list, and I've finally read it.  Before I delve into the opinions of myself and the book group, I just want to point out some notable quotations that stood out for me.  I know there are hundreds of books already in print which contain lists of Wilde's famous words, but they are the quotations that other people deem important.  The following lines are the ones that I deem important.

The Preface 
The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.
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 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.
The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.  The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.  No artist desires to prove anything.  Even things that are true can be proved.
No artist has ethical sympathies.  An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.
No artist is ever morbid.  The artist can express everything.
Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.
Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.
From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician.  From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type.
All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it.  The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.
…for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know. 
He played with the idea, and grew wilful; tossed it into the air and transformed it; let it escape and recaptured it; made it iridescent with fancy, and winged it with paradox.
I’m too fond of reading books to care to write them, Mr. Erskine.  I should like to write a novel certainly; a novel that would be as lovely as a Persian carpet, and as unreal.  But there is no literary public in England for anything except newspapers, primers, and encyclopædias.  Of all people in the world the English have the least sense of the beauty of literature. 
She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest.
The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists.  Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are.  A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures.  But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating.  The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look.  The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible.  He lives the poetry that he cannot write.  The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.
But then the only things that one can use in fiction are the things that one has ceased to use in fact.
I love acting.  It is so much more real than life.
Love is a more wonderful thing than Art.
They are both simply forms of imitation. 
There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating - people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
And, certainly, to him, Life itself was the first, the greatest of the arts, and for it all the other arts seemed to be but a preparation.
One's days were too brief to take the burden of another's errors on one's shoulders.  Each man lived his own life and paid his own price for living it.  The only pity was one had to pay so often for a single fault.  One had to pay over and over again, indeed.  In her dealings with man, Destiny closed her accounts.

Most people enjoyed the book, but found it very wordy.  Wilde does have a fantastic way with language, and his vocabulary is superb, but sometimes he does go on and on and on and on with his description and it can get quite boring.  I almost feel a bit bad about saying negative things about Oscar Wilde, because he is one of the greats, but this book didn't meet my expectations.  I've read two of his plays; Salomé and The Importance of Being Earnest, which were strange and funny, and I had hoped for the same from this book.

One member of the group made an interesting comment.  She said that a lot of the original story had been omitted from the published version as it was too risqué for the time.  Apparently, Wilde had written about homosexuality and opium dens in much more detail, and more frequently, than was actually published, as well as other example of debauchery.  This makes sense, as the story did feel disjointed in parts, and there were hints towards the terrible things that Dorian had done during his life, but no actual details. 

This book was Wilde's only novel, and many people at the group said that it probably would have scanned better had it been a play.  I don't know if I agree or disagree with this, but I do feel that it was lacking a lot of the story.  Although this is a well known story, I won't give away the ending.  All I will say is that the ending was a surprise, but it was too sudden considering the wordiness of the book.

I'm not going to tell you that you shouldn't read this book.  However, I will tell you not to expect too much from it.  And don't let it put you off reading Wilde's plays.  They're brilliant.

Next month we will be discussing The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad.

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