Will Self's updated version of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" inevitably invites comparison with the original, and I'm afraid I thought that it came a poor second best.
"Dorian" failed for me on several counts. Self (who at his best is an imaginative writer) just could not match Wilde's wit: for example, Wilde's Henry Wotton is a much more witty character than Self's.
Wilde's novel had a certain Gothic horror underpinned by a subtle homosexual sub-plot (the latter necessarily so given the time it was written). Self, however, had no real need to allude to the homosexuality of his characters. Indeed, it's out there in the open, coupled with horror created by descriptions of AIDS and a sort of "American Psycho" sub-plot. No subtlety here then - quite the reverse. I felt that Self couldn't tear himself away from these themes. The trouble is that they weigh down the whole book, becoming tedious for the reader (or at least this one). That's not to belittle the fact that AIDS has had and continues to have a devasting effect, but I felt at times that Self was doing little more than indulging what I suspect might have been a fascination with descriptions of casual gay sex, cruising, SM bars and AIDS wards. When mixed together, they do not of themselves constitute an interesting novel.
This might be because Self's chosen plot pandered to his favourite themes. Within the first 50 pages of "Dorian", the reader is in familiar Self territory: drug abuse and hospitals. I couldn't help getting the immediate feeling of "here we go again". I suppose that continued descriptions of drug abuse in Self's writing have just worn me down. I just don't find it in the least bit interesting any more. I much prefer Self's writing when he holds these obessions in check, and lets his imagination explore different subjects/themes. "Dorian" was, I'm afraid, inferior both to Wilde and to Self's other work.
- MP3 CD
- Publisher: Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio; Unabridged edition (May 31 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1522662227
- ISBN-13: 978-1522662228
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.6 x 14 cm
- Shipping Weight: 136 g
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews