The Picture of Dorian Gray (75 Books – XIII)

Another audiobook, this time Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, published by Blackstone Audio and narrated by Simon Vance.

Now, when I wrote about Murakami Haruki’s Kafka on the Shore, I criticised the author for being too eager to show off how intelligent he is by name-dropping famous musicians and such at every opportunity. Wilde goes much farther, as a large part of the novel consists of long conversations that don’t seem to have much purpose beyond giving Wilde an opportunity to show the reader how clever he is, or filling a chapter describing the various musical or gemstone collections his protagonist acquires and making sure we all know how much research he did in the lore of these things. To be fair, Wilde is genuinely clever, and his dialogues are often amusing, but they make the novel longer than necessary and quickly begin to feel tedious.

Despite this, though, the story of literature’s second-most-famous Faustian bargain is engaging from beginning to end. I suspect that this story may have been better served as a stage play, though, since most of the action occurs either in dialogue or relatively simple actions. This would also have forced Wilde to trim the dialogues down, probably for the better – I remember several lines from The Importance of Being Earnest, and don’t recall it getting anywhere near as tedious as Dorian.

Simon Vance’s narration was solid throughout, though his upper-class British accents for some of the minor characters were a little too stereotypical and cartoony; the major characters all sounded about perfect.

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