Dorian Gray Read-along Check In #1

Phew that was quick, we’re at the first check in for The Picture of Dorian Gray Read-along already! We have all reached the end of chapter six which is 72 pages into my copy (and roughly a third of the way through the book). The Picture of Dorian Gray copy

I was last to the check in point because these guys are reading champions with lightning speed. 😉 I’m going to have to up my game. 😛 Luckily we haven’t set any time limits to reach each point this time so I wasn’t working to a deadline, phew.

If you want to follow our progress and conversations on twitter we are currently using the hashtag #DorianReadalong when we remember to use it, lol.

So as I am hosting the first check in I had to try and come up with some brain boggling, intellectually stimulating, out of this world questions. Whether I succeeded or not is up for debate, but I hope you enjoy our answers.

Is it just me or was that the most confusing, profound preface ever?

~*~ Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic ~*~
I found the preface incredibly confusing at first, I had to keep rereading it to make any sense of Wilde’s sentences. For instance: ‘The moral life of a man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.’ Brainnnn twisterrrrrr! I found every line as confusing as the next having to unpick everything as I went along. I am still thinking it over now; it tried so hard to be profound and succeeded in a lot of places but it also felt almost overdone at points for me too. Through research I found out that the preface was added one year after the book was published to combat some of the negative criticism, maybe explaining why it feels over-the-top at points!

~*~ Miscrawl ~*~
I agree, the preface is confusing, contradictory yet extremely profound. Each of the sentences are completely quotable, much like almost every other paragraph in the book. Reading the preface terrified me because I had to read it very very slowly, multiple times. Was I being stupid? Was the rest of the book going to be like this? However, I think it sets the story up nicely. It made me appreciate Wilde’s way with words.

~*~ BookBoodle ~*~
I’m with Charl on the preface, it’s full of witty sayings, in fact you could probably write an entire blog post dedicated interpreting this and the meaning of art! I found myself reading each sentence a few times to understand what I was reading and what Wilde was trying to imply. It sets the tone for the book and I did think if it’s all like this I’m going to be struggling and it’s going to take ages to read.

~*~ Venuskitten ~*~
I agree that the preface is not straightforward, and I had to keep re-reading it to see what Oscar Wilde was trying to say. I think it is written in quite a disjointed way and some of the arguments seem to be unrelated points, as though it was written almost in a turmoil.
I think the preface may become clearer after reading further into the book, but it seems to me that Wilde is saying that an artist creates a piece of art and sends it out into the world for others to see and criticise or evaluate, while the artist himself hides in the background.  Those who criticise the art are really putting their own interpretation on it and reflecting their own view of life and their own shortcomings, and while critics are arguing about the meaning of art, the artist stays in the background – he knows what it means, even if the critics can’t agree.
Wilde says that there is a difference between art and useful things – useful things should only be created for a purpose and not to be admired. On the contrary, art should never be useful but should be created only to be admired. I think that Wilde is suggesting here that using art for a purpose can be dangerous – Dorian Gray does not want the portrait so that he can admire it as a great work of art; he wants the portrait to have a purpose, and that purpose is to age in his place while Dorian himself preserves his youth.

How are you finding the language in the book? Easy? Difficult? Confusing?

~*~ Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic ~*~
So far I am finding it half and half. Some chapters fly past quickly with little difficulty, while others have me stumbling awkwardly. I have noticed a trend when this happens too, the chapters containing large chunks of dialogue from Lord Henry usually take me longer and require more concentration. He doesn’t speak in riddles exactly, but he is usually spouting one of his philosophies each time he appears which makes for a tougher read. It makes for some great one liner’s about society though!
I was also expecting a slightly more eerie feel to the language as it is a Gothic book but no luck so far, maybe that part will come later. 🙂

~*~ Miscrawl ~*~
To begin with, I struggled with the language. Wilde is very descriptive, long-winded and flowery, very typical for the era the book is written in. In the first couple of chapters, where the story and characters are being established, I found myself re-reading sentences 2 or 3 times to make sure I understood what was going on. I must admit, in the initial chapters, when I turned over a page and saw a solid block of writing where a character is giving a long speech, my heart sank a little. I felt a little out of my depth, like I wasn’t clever enough to understand it all. However, I’ve gotten over this bump now, and after reading chapter 6 I now feel more confident. I still have to re-read certain bits of writing, but nowhere near as much as I did at the start.

~*~ BookBoodle ~*~
I struggled to start with but I think you just have to get used it, it is very flowery and overly descriptive, however if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be much book! It does get easier the more you read and when it’s speech rather than the block descriptions.

~*~ Venuskitten ~*~
I thought that the language reflects how I imagine Wilde to be – eloquent, articulate, perceptively witty and “flowery”. Wilde always looks such a dandy in contemporary pictures of him – well dressed, artistic.
The language is more florid and wordy than 21st century novels, so the style is not what the modern reader might be used to reading, but it reflects the way that Victorian novels were written (compare it with novels by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins or Elizabeth Gaskell). The language might be over elaborate for some modern taste, but, for me, Wilde’s intelligence and wit shone through. I found that there are so many one-liners that I had to read the book with care to avoid missing one of them – eg “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.  Not many authors would think of that or be able to express it so well.  The comment says a lot about society.

Are you enjoying the book so far?

~*~ Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic ~*~
To be 100% honest……not really, at the moment. I don’t feel like anything interesting has happened in the novel so far other than a load of fuddy duddy men chatting to each other over visits and dinners that hold themselves in far too high esteem. It’s quite irritating actually. I get that’s the purpose of those characters, they aren’t supposed to be likable but the problem is I’m having trouble caring about anything they do at all which doesn’t give me much incentive to read on. I really hope the book picks up soon!!!!

~*~ Miscrawl ~*~
Now I’ve hit the chapter 6 mark I feel like I’ve eased into the book enough to enjoy it. I’m used to the characters, and most importantly I’m used to the language and the way Wilde writes. I’m finding the story interesting, but I’m waiting for the real ‘wow!’ to hit.

~*~ BookBoodle ~*~
I wouldn’t say I was loving it but I have more interest in it because I understand it better than other classics I’ve read. It’s a slow start and the pages of blocks of writing are off putting.

~*~ Venuskitten ~*~
Yes! There are some hints at the end of Chapter 6 that Dorian Gray’s life is about to change for the worse, but it’s an intriguing story and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next.
This book had been on my to-be-read list for a long time . I hadn’t read it before, but some of the story was familiar (most people know that the picture ages while Dorian Gray retains his youth). I was really pleased to have the chance to read the book and to discuss it.

Do you agree with Lord Henry’s view that the world and you as an induvidual would be better off if we gave into every impulse?

~*~ Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic ~*~
This question is based on one of Lord Henry’s many philosophies he feels the need to share with Dorian throughout the book. In a recent review I spoke about how much better off some of us would be if we told the truth more, and explained how we were feeling, so there is definitely some truth in Henry’s statement. Sometimes we are governed too much by societies rules of what is considered politically correct so much so that we hinder ourselves in the process. However giving in to every impulse seems like insanity. Fancy a takeaway? Give in and have a takeaway! Feel like telling someone they look terrible in that outfit? Tell them they look terrible in that outfit! Oh, you don’t like that person so you want to go and murder them? Go for it and murder them, there’s nothing wrong with that! Yeah… no. I have to say that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing and follow too many impulses. Can you imagine the chaos the world would be in? It wouldn’t function!

~*~ Miscrawl ~*~
You’ve hit a nerve there! I get so infuriated by Lord Henry. In terms of giving in to impulses, it’s just too idealistic. There has to be some sort of restraint for a civilised society, surely? It’s a wonderful thought, but the cynic and pessimist in me immediately thinks of all of the problems. Lord Henry is advocating that people should give in to impulses, take action rather than merely think of it, and express thoughts rather than keeping them locked away. I admit that sometimes, when impulses and the like are ignored, you can regret and brood over them which is hardly productive. I often wish that I’d said or done something at certain moments in time. I can see Henry’s point. It would be wonderful to live free from restrictions and be spur-of-the-moment and have no regrets about inaction. However, if we all gave in to every impulse, action or thought that we ever had, what would the consequences be? I can’t be certain, but I don’t think it would be as perfect as Lord Henry imagines.

~*~ BookBoodle ~*~
I don’t agree with Lord Henry’s view on impulses. You can’t give into every whim you have, there’ll always be some kind of restraint holding you back – whether financial, moral or legal!

~*~ Venuskitten ~*~
I think it depends on the impulse! Some would be beneficial and lead to great happiness others could cause distress and irreparable damage. In the novel, Dorian Gray has impulsively fallen for a young actress (Sibyl); by the end of chapter 6, we are not sure how his romance will work out, but we expect/hope to find out as the story goes on.

Do you like Dorian as a character?

~*~ Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic ~*~
It’s a bit weird, at the moment I don’t feel like he is a proper character. All that we have been told about him so far is based on the opinion of other characters in the book, which makes me feel like I don’t really know who he is yet. I get no personality off him, it’s like he’s a shadow of a person. Maybe he’s supposed to feel like that so that he is being shaped by those around him throughout the book..?

~*~ Miscrawl ~*~
So far, I do like Dorian. Yes he’s petulant, irritating in a child-like way and impressionable, but there’s a naive innocence about him. I want to shake him when he takes everything that Lord Henry says to heart. I like his youthfulness and can relate to him to some extent: that time in your life when you’re trying to decide who you are and what opinions you have. At other times, I just want to tell him to grow a pair and man up. He’s intriguing.7

~*~ BookBoodle ~*~
I find Dorian to be quite naive and impressionable but then you find out he’s only 19 and can understand that he would be easily influenced by older men. Overall I find this attraction to Dorian’s beauty very odd and unnerving, it’s almost like Henry and Basil have a ‘man crush’ or even homosexual inclinations.

~*~ Venuskitten ~*~
Yes I did. Dorian Gray is a wealthy, handsome and well educated young man whose life consists of indolence and hedonism. When he is not getting his portrait painted, his time is spent at his club, or having dinner/lunch/supper with aristocratic friends at one of his large houses, or theirs. He leads a different and more privileged life to most people of his time, but that is the life he was born into and it’s a glittering fascinating world for the reader. What really makes Dorian Gray a likeable character for me is the wit and intelligence of his society world and the way that Oscar Wilde has made him into such a memorable character.  Dorian Gray is a window into another era. Maybe he has his faults (it would be surprising if someone leading such a gilded life avoided being selfish) and we may find out more about them as the story progresses. The question for me was whether the reader would continue to sympathise with him as the story went on.

*   *   *

Awesome answers guys! Look out for our thoughts on chapters 7-12 at the next check in with BookBoodle, I will probably reblog it. 🙂

Participants:
BookBoodle
Miscrawl
Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic
Venuskitten

Image Sources:
My own, feel free to reuse.

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18 thoughts on “Dorian Gray Read-along Check In #1

  1. I had no idea that these read-a-longs were so high brow.

    Lots of interesting thoughts to read about a book I hadn’t even heard until the other week. I’d probably struggle to write more than two lines in answer to the questions…!

    • Haha neither did I Michael! It’s quite fun though. 🙂

      Definitely, I’m loving the comparisons, it’s the most interesting part, probably more interesting than reading the book actually. For me, the trouble was coming up with the questions in the first place rather than answering, not much happened in the first part of the book!

  2. Well done! i enjoyed reading the different points of view on the questions.
    Though from what I’ve read here describing the prose, I’ll probably skip the book. Not such a big fan of flowery and disjointed, even if it was teh style at the time.
    Give me terse and descriptive (Hemmingway) over that any day of the week.

    • Thanks El Guapo, I’m glad you enjoyed reading our thoughts. 🙂

      Haha I have to say I’m with you! I am not a fan of the flowery prose at all, he’s a intelligent writer but that aspect is putting me off a bit, it’s not a style I lean towards. There’s a lot of sexual undertones in the writing as well, all the men are described in the way an author would normally describe women which is a very interesting contrast. It’s usually put down to the fact the author was bisexual in a time when it was not accepted, it makes me wonder if he did it on purpose for effect or not!

      • It’s really interesting to read our different approaches and answers to the questions.

        Like beckyday6 and Bookboodle, I noticed a distinct homoerotic atmosphere in the novel. It is almost as if Wilde was daring to push the boundaries set by society at the time; some of his witty but acerbic comments a bit later in the novel suggest that he had issues with London society and its hypocritical views.

      • I agree! I’m loving the comparison blog post style.

        He was definitely a man before his time as they say. So you think he did it intentionally then? I wasn’t too sure. 🙂

  3. I’m going to have to pick this one up again so I can relate to what you’re all talking about! It’s amazing how people pick up different facets of the same parts of the book. I had the impression in parts that Wilde was going out of his way to be quotable, much as I understand he does in his plays.

    Keep us posted…I know there’s a long section in the book later on which shoots off at a wild tangent (on to geology, I think). Be interesting to see how you all work your way through that.:-)

    • You’re so right, it is extremely interesting what stands out to a certain person or gets their attention because it is usually different for each of us! That’s why I love the way we’ve done this, comparing several thoughts on one blog post because it really gives and overall picture. 🙂
      That’s exactly how I feel Tony! Of course it’s a great skill to be quotable but I think it almost feels to forced in this book, like it doesn’t flow naturally.

      Oooh yeah I got to that part! It was so painful I felt tempted to skim it. O_o I’m nearly at the end now actually, only got a couple of chapters to go, we’re a little behind on the blog posts because of the busyness of everyday life. 🙂

  4. I can definitely empathise with the struggle to keep reading on this one – I found Dorian such a ‘non character’ in the early chapters, that I wasn’t keen to keep reading. I had it as a ‘train’ book, and reading in fits-and-starts definitely didn’t work with it. I’ll have to go back and try again to finish it…

    Reading your comments, it made me wonder whether maybe there’s something about the book as a whole, to be taken from the preface- if you view it as art, it can be admired, but maybe not enjoyed? I know with books like Ulysses, I admired it for what had been attempted, but I did not enjoy a single second of reading it! 🙂

    • Thank goodness it’s not just me, I’ve been looking through a few Goodreads reviews and a lot of them mention what a vibrant and memorable character he is, and all I can think is….huh? I don’t feel that at all, lol! Your right, I don’t think Dorian was a book made for the train it doesn’t necessarily catch the attention enough – from my point of view anyway. 🙂 If you decide to dig it back out I would love to know what you think!

      I think you’re right there. For me it’s certainly not an enjoyable book, it feels more like a philosophical idea that a writer has tried to make into a novel. Haha your very brave for reading Ulysses, I’ve heard the horror stories! 😀

      • I haven’t dared to read Ulysses either! And I admire anybody who carries on reading to the end of a novel despite not enjoying it at all.

      • Haha, you know the funny thing about Ulysses is that I have no idea what it’s about, no one ever talks about the story, just how horrendously difficult the read is!

  5. That’s the thing with Wilde. When I read this book I started becoming very philosophical and pensive about life. But I like the fact that he makes you think, even if it is in a confusing way 😀

    • Yeah I definitely got that, it made me quite depressed actually because everyone is so negative about life in the novel and the few that aren’t never come to a good end in various different ways, LOL!

      From an intelligence point of view, it’s an interesting read. 🙂

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