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Oscar Wilde’s classic endures with its gems of astute observation and cynical wit. The eerie story follows a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty in the form of a supernatural portrait. Life's mysterious paradoxes are laced throughout Lord Henry's brilliant aphorisms. Gray is urged by Henry to "love the wonderful life that is in you." The novel's qualities are mired in decadence, "art for art's sake," the new hedonism of the Victorian-era upper class, and societal moral corruption. Simon Prebble perfectly achieves Lord Henry's "low, languid voice" and sparkling conversation, while avidly expressing the other characters' more torrid emotions. Prebble brings the fable's gothic horror to life, but the more youthful characters lack believable intonation.
What made the experience of listening to The Picture of Dorian Gray the most enjoyable?
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a stunningly beautiful book, among my very favourites. I had not read it for many years when I stumbled upon this performance of it, and it has instantly rocketed to the top of the "Top 10" list in my Audible library. <br/><br/>This cautionary, "be careful what you wish for" tale contains many of Oscar Wilde's most celebrated lines, including my personal favourite, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Beautiful-but-outrageous dialogue like this brings a lightness and some comedy to this otherwise sad story.<br/><br/>I'm not sure if I've ever given 5 stars across the board before, but this performance of this wonderful book is surely deserving of it. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Which character – as performed by Simon Prebble – was your favorite?
Prebble gives a near-perfect performance. Each character has a distinctive voice, but the distinctions are subtle and totally believable, unlike some narrators who I think go overboard. His "Basil Hallwood" in particular is beautifully human; every ounce of the characters kindness, and his love for Dorian, comes shining through.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray tends to be classified as "horror" because the underlying premise is indeed one of supernatural horror: a dissolute young man is blessed/cursed with eternal youth, thanks to a portrait painted by an artist friend of his which reflects all the sins and depravities of his debauched life. As Dorian Gray stays young and beautiful, his portrait becomes more and more ghastly, until the karmic climax.
Nonetheless, if you actually read the novel, the "horror" aspects, particularly the supernatural parts, are understated. Dorian Gray, who begins as a rather callow but not evil youth, falls under the cynical influence of Lord Henry Wotton, a professional member of the do-nothing aristocratic class. When the painter Basil Hallward captures Dorian's Adonis-like perfection on canvas, Dorian is overcome with the tragedy of his own face growing old and wrinkled while the painting will always capture him as he was, young and perfect. He wishes it could be the reverse, and gets his wish.
Unlike in the movie versions, there is no magical Egyptian cat-god or explicit deal with the Devil that makes this happen — for Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray's selling of his soul was entirely metaphorical. He was apparently satirizing the Aesthetic Movement (though he was himself one of its more prominent representatives) which can best be summarized as "Art for Art's Sake." It was associated with decadence and disregard for social and moral judgments; Dorian Gray was a literal manifestation of the Aesthetic ideal: he sold his soul for Art (or rather, a piece of art).
Dorian becomes increasingly heartless after his cruel treatment of Sylvia Vane, whom he loved for her art but then jilted when she let him down artistically. After a brief attempt at redemption, he becomes one of the most notorious men in London, though notably, the precise nature of his many evil deeds is never described, leaving it all up to the reader's lascivious imagination. He ruins lives and destroys everyone close to him, yet still manages to keep a few close friends like Lord Henry and Basil.
(I definitely picked up some homoerotic vibes between Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil, which is interesting since apparently Wilde had to cut out some of the more overt homoeroticism when it went from serialization in a magazine to publication as a novel.)
So, read as a horror novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray is kind of lightweight — it's definitely not "scary" — and as a satire/criticism of the Aesthetic Movement, it is not terribly subtle. However, Oscar Wilde was most famous for his bon mots, and reading Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil exchange wry witticisms is the real pleasure of the novel, even if none of them talk like actual people having real conversations. This book could be mined for quotable lines on every page, and as a story of a man falling headfirst into Faustian temptation, it definitely has its literary moments. It is not perfect (it's awfully convenient how often Dorian escapes judgment by someone else's timely death, and the prose is a bit turgidly Victorian), but it's a solid 4 star book. Definitely worth reading for the one-liners and for absorbing a very readable literary classic.
30 of 34 people found this review helpful
Having listened to samples of most other readings of this book, I can assure you that this is the most captivatingly read. Simon Prebble conveys the cynicism, wit and drama of the text in a fashion that truly draws you into the world. I'd recommend it to anyone.
24 of 29 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray to be better than the print version?
Yes, because it was great to listen to while working around the house. I probably wouldn't have taken the time to read the book.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Sybil Vane, the beautiful actress who falls in love with Dorian Gray. I felt sorry for her and she was the most human of all the other characters. More easy to identify with, in stead of the rich, vain people that were in this novel.
Have you listened to any of Simon Prebble’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I don't remember, he was a good narrator for this book. He did make Dorian Gray a very irritating person, but then he was irritating.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
Take a look at me!
Any additional comments?
Great story about vanity and evil. Some wonderful Wilde lines that made me chuckle.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
At times while listening to this novel, I was astonished to realize that only one individual was reading it. Simon Prebble creates so many distinct voices, one might think several men and women are huddling around the microphone, and they call their ensemble "Simon Prebble." Bravo.
I suppose most people dive into this book already knowing what it's about, so the narrator's talent is especially important. The plot holds few surprises, so it's the performance that delights.
I also guess that most of Audible's subscribers are familiar with Oscar Wilde, his sexual preferences, and where they landed him because of where he lived and when. He was, I think, very courageous for including so many overt references in his book to homosexuality and the tragic end suffered by the men due to shame and the fear of being outed. (Excuse my use of that modern term in reference to this book. It worked better than "exposed.")
A few of the plot developments were easy to guess in advance, but that did not lessen my enjoyment. Sir Henry's worldview is interesting and thought provoking, and he is a solid, consistent character to whom Prebble gives voice.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Really would rate this 4 1/2 stars overall. A classic novella from one of the best prose writers of all time. Wilde was a master at the "turn of phrase", and in this story the character of Lord Henry (called "the prince of paradox") is a stand-in for Wilde himself. This is a novel that needs to be read (or listened to) more than once to catch all the philosophical ramblings. I did not think that Dorian should be blamed for all the degradation he believes he caused. After all individuals are responsible for their own actions and have a choice - they followed Dorian willingly. He himself was greatly influenced by the cynical Lord Henry. The idea of having the picture change with each cruel action was a brilliant literary device. Simon Prebble's narration was excellent although I did have some problems telling Lord Henry and Dorian apart.
8 of 11 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Certainly. It's one of those must-read books that I never read before.
What did you like best about this story?
The writing is exceedingly witty but depressingly cynical. What I liked LEAST about the story is that Lord Henry, having amused himself setting up and observing his little social experiment for 18 years, suffers no pangs or punishment. But then, I suppose this is a lot like real life...
Have you listened to any of Simon Prebble’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Prebble never disappoints.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
The leisure class - gack! There are enough literary portrayals of this class and time that at least some of it must be true. Lives boasting no notable accomplishment other than having picked the right ancestors from whom to inherit. Lives lived with no occupation but dining out, attending theater, and "calling on" one another. The class, gender and race prejudice is astounding. Did no one miss the sense of having done something useful?
Any additional comments?
A language of drama and absolutes. You would fit right in if you could learn to say: "I can't BEAR it!" "You must/must not," "I will not allow it." "Oh, DO (insert any verb here - stay, go, sit.)" "My DEAR (insert any name here.)" Frankly, having any conversation with these people would have worn me out. (Sorry. Would have QUITE have worn me out.)
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Oscar Wild's only novel is full of murder and mayhem in the life of a self absorbed socialite. It tells the Faustian story of the downfall of Dorian Gray due to his deal with the devil tied up in a painting that captures his aging and moral decay and keeps him young. Very interesting twists.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Despite knowing much of the plot of the story beforehand, it was better than I expected. Lovely prose and keen social commentary. A masterpiece. The narration was excellent.
13 of 19 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed this book. Lord Henry is wicked and wise all in the same breath and you don't know how to feel for Dorian Gray. I would definitely recommend this to anyone.
11 of 16 people found this review helpful
No one but Prebble could interpret so well the languid tones and phlegm of Lord Henry. In the narrator's voice I could visualise the character's affected smile and slow gestures. Dorian also, from a youthful voice at first, becomes more detached, sophisticated, and Lord Henry-like in tones as the book develops. I cannot think of a more appropriate narrator. This is a priceless interpretation of the The Picture of Dorian Gray.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful