Reading some classics now and then is a great joy in itself, they are from an era long gone, but the message still connects with people. As mentioned in an excellent article that I read on The Art of Manliness, “This is partly what turns great books into classics. They ultimately speak to the most basic truths of humanity in story form.”, and this book truly stands out in this regard.
I read the book through the Kindle App on my Nexus 7 (2012), started reading it around 2nd or 3rd Jan and finished it today. It had been on my reading list for a while. I first found it on the 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library, many of the books on this list are on my next to pick up list, and some of them I have already read. The best part is that a good number of the books mentioned here are available for free on Kindle Store and Project Gutenberg.
Note that this is not a review or critique of the book, rather my thoughts and what I felt while reading the book, and this may contain spoiler, depending upon how sensitive a reader you are.
The book is written in an exquisite manner and wit oozes out of its chapters. The story by Oscar Wilde was first published in the year 1890 and the language is of that time. Though not many people care for dense phrases and complex sentences, the book is an easy read, the plot though quite known, a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, upon seeing a portrait of his made by his painter friend, in pursuit of vanity, wished that he always remain as young as the picture in front him, and that the portrait bears the signs of his age. And so it happens.
“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”
There are two more important characters in the story and it is around them that the plot moves and the narration flows.
The painter, Basil Hallward, an individual with deep rooted moral beliefs, finds Dorian to be a great inspiration that has helped him find his best form as an artist.
The painter’s friend, Lord Henry, an eloquent cynic, and a firm promoter of hedonistic thought and way of life.
While I was reading the book, a hadith (saying) of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) came to my mind. ‘A man is upon the Deen (way of life) of his close friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.’. One of the axiom that I have always held on to is that “It is better to be in good company than to be alone, but, it is better to be alone than to be in bad company”.
I read a good chunk of the book today, the last eight chapters, and another thought came to my mind.
‘So when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never
Because a dance with the devil might last you forever’.
This piece of lyric is from the song “Dance With The Devil” by Immortal Technique, a song that sent a shiver down my spine, you can read the lyrics here and I don’t recommend listening to the song.
The strange part is that I remember reading this book in the form of a short story as child in my early school days, though what a dark tragedy it is, not many could guess. In some sections, I was able to see what was going to unfold next but there were also some dreadful moments that I didn’t perceive.
This book is also a goldmine in terms of quotes and epigrams,
“He says things that annoy me. He gives me good advice.”
Lord Henry smiled. “People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.”
“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”
“You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one.”
“It is the stupid and the ugly who have the best of it in this world”
“They get up early, because they have so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to think about. ”
few of the many gems that you will find inside.
I highly enjoyed reading this fascinating book and recommend it to my fellow readers. It will make you chuckle, it will make you sad, but most importantly, it will make you Think, Ponder, and Reflect.