Oscar Wilde? Not a Fan

dorian grayI’ve been trying to add some of the classics to my reading list this year, and for some reason chose this one. Years ago I saw the movie, but it apparently didn’t leave an impression on me. Still, I think the movie would’ve been better.

I’m a few chapters into this and I’m still waiting for the story to unfold. That’s normal for the era in which Wilde wrote–along with the head-hopping and long descriptive prose (which is about the only thing I’ve liked so far). The dialogue is far from realistic; I’m certain, even in his era, people didn’t talk like that. If they did, I’m glad I wasn’t born then.

These are things I expect out of 19th Century novels (well, I’ve seen better dialogue). Usually, while I wait for the story to kick in, I face these novels with patience and a hope for learning. I look for clever phrases, picturesque prose, thoughts worthy of mulling over. Wilde gets an A in descriptive prose: who wouldn’t like his line “the sullen murmer of bumble bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass” or “blue cloud-shadows chased themselves across the grass like swallows”? Or how about this: “She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest”?

I even found one nugget that is applicable to today: “Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

But so far, I’ve been met with page after page of pontification. The supposed wisdom of Lord Henry comes with the package of the character himself. The man is full of himself, loves to hear himself talk, and is convinced no one has anything to say that’s worth his listening to. His bloviations range from the brainlessness of women, the uselessness of Americans, and the folly of fidelity. Hedonism suits him well, but only for the upper classes, the bored rich, because the unwashed lower classes haven’t the intellect to enjoy it. And those who are subjected to his diatribes either won’t argue with his dogma, or have an epiphany through his “truths.” Young and old alike find him “delightful” company.


oscar wildeI assume Wilde presented his philosophies through Lord Henry and developed for himself an audience who would listen to his words of enlightenment–because I sincerely doubt his words went without argument when he presented this drivel in person.

It isn’t just that I disagree withΒ absolutely everything Lord Henry/Oscar Wilde has to say, it’s also the way he says it. Page after page of difficult monologue that I’m learning to skim over because it doesn’t seem to be worth the effort to figure it all out.

But I’ll continue reading–skimming–because the story itself interests me. I just hope he gets to it soon.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Authors, Reading, Reviews of exceptional books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Oscar Wilde? Not a Fan

  1. Harliqueen says:

    It is hard sometimes to get used to older, ‘classics’, they are so far removed from our time, some just don’t age well πŸ˜€ Great post!


    • Linda Yezak says:

      Absolutely right. I think this one didn’t age well at all, but that’s my opinion. Someone out there somewhere probably thinks this is the best of all novels and rereads it annually. πŸ˜›


  2. Kat Heckenbach says:

    I love the story in Dorian Gray. Absolutely love it. BUT, I agree–Lord Henry should have been CUT from the novel. When I read it, I pretty much just skip over everything he says. I’ve said for a while now that Dorian Gray should have been written by Edgar Allen Poe. He’d have killed Lord Henry off and stuck to writing the story :P.


    • Linda Yezak says:

      Oh, now you’re talkin’, Kat! Poe would’ve been the perfect writer for this story idea. Absolutely love his work. The idea he would’ve killed off Lord Henry–and I have no doubt he would have–is just icing on the cake. πŸ˜€


  3. K.M. Weiland says:

    I was just thinking today how much I’ve benefited from reading the classics – even though I’ve been bored to death by a good many of them. I haven’t got to Wilde yet. I’m working way through authors alphabetically, and I’m only up to Hemingway now.


    • Linda Yezak says:

      I think if I had it all to do over again, I would’ve picked Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. That one looks a bit better. Or perhaps if I knew then what I know now, I would’ve bypassed all his work and grabbed onto a good Ayn Rand novel. πŸ˜€


  4. To see a photo of Oscar Wilde, made in 1882 in the U.S., proceed to http://www.kaplancollection.com, then click on his name. This is a recent discovery.


  5. to Linda

    Dear Linda,

    I think that you will be pleased to see the photographic images on my website, http://www.kaplancollection.com. Please let me know. Yours sincerely, Albert Kaplan


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