The Picture of Dorian Gray.
This book goes down in history as the only book that I have read on the toilet. I am not a bathroom reader, nor was this the result of any inspired constipation. Rather, I had a horrible, very bad, awful, no good urinary tract infection and made the decision while waiting for the ER prescribed painkillers to kick in that it was simpler to simply *stay* on the pot than to get up and return every five minutes. So, I needed something to do and I finished the last 20% of this book in infamy.
Anyhow. I read this book as a courtesy to my partner, N, as it’s his favorite book and he’s been pestering me since we met to read it. Given that I’ve been reading just about anything with words printed on paper lately, I figured that the time was right to give in to the demands.
I’ll admit that I had some trouble with it. The first couple of chapters, before the plot really gets going, are pretty wanky. Blah blah blah, Oscar Wilde waxing on and on about art and beauty, blah blah blah. Wilde’s writing style where every fifth line is some kind of clever quip (or “epigram” as he calls it in a really wank-tastically self-referential moment) that could very easily stand alone as a comment about art or life is really, really pompous. That said, if anyone can get away with it, it’s Oscar Wilde as it’s more often than not, very funny as well.
I very rarely read anything pre-1950 and getting my head into the 19th century took some doing, but I’ve got to say that my biggest problem with regards to the context in which it was written wasn’t the language, but the sexism. Oh holy cow, the sexism. Women, in the world of this novel, are totally interchangeable accessories whose main purpose is to entertain men until the men get tired of them and substitute them for other women. Women fall in love, men simply seek to be amused. Women are painted as sentimental and of inferior intellectual capacity unable to “understand” the world of men.
Yeah, I like my novels with a bit more social consciousness, thnx. Of course, this isn’t unique to Wilde. There are plenty of books out there whose treatment of women/minorities/GLBT folk/etc. makes my skin crawl. In this case, the book is still worth reading, but only because it’s Oscar Wilde.