The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

dorianWhat would you give for perfection? Would you sacrifice your money? Your possessions? Happiness? How about your soul? Think twice, because perfection is impossible. What may outwardly appear as perfection is never so. Underneath a pristine surface will always be found some form of corruption or imperfection.

Oscar Wilde explores the idea of perfection, beauty, sin, hedonism, accountability, and aestheticism through The Picture of Dorian Gray. When the story was first published in an 1890 edition of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, it received a lot of backlash due to content deemed “objectionable”, ““vulgar”, “unclean”, “poisonous”, and “discreditable” by the British press. However, the version published in the magazine had already been heavily edited by a Lippincott editor without Oscar Wilde’s knowledge, and was further edited before its publication in book form in 1891. The first unedited version was not published until 120 years after the story’s initial publication. Why was Dorian Gray so heavily edited? Due to the excesses, corruption, and indulgences held within its pages. The beauty of the novel lies within this very decadence.

The story centers around three main characters: Basil Hallward, Lord Henry Wotton, and Dorian Gray. Basil Hallward is an artist who develops an infatuation for Dorian Gray, a young member of London high society who often sits for his paintings. Lord Henry is an established society member and friend of Basil’s whose entire moral code is based on his conviction that “the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it”. When he asks Basil about Dorian, the artist responds that he “knew that [he] had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if [he] allowed it to do so, it would absorb [his] whole nature, [his] whole soul, [his] very art itself”, and passionately states that Dorian “is all [his] art to [him] now”. Lord Henry asks to meet Dorian, but Basil resists, insisting that Lord Henry is sure to corrupt him with his hedonistic values.

Despite Basil’s objections, Lord Henry and Dorian meet. That very afternoon, Basil finishes a portrait of Dorian that he believes to be the most beautiful work he has ever created. While admiring it, Dorian states that he wishes his physical self could remain as lovely and untouched by sin as the portrait, while the painting ages and corrupts. Dorian’s wish is granted, and he subsequently falls into a life of sin and opulence. As the years pass, his obsessions over the painting tear him apart from the inside, while his appearance remains spotless.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, of course, carries all the trademark wit and mastery of Oscar Wilde. There is an epigram on practically every page (a notable one is “we can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless”), and the dialogue is clever, thought-provoking, and at times humorous. Every word in the novel is deliberate, and Wilde’s prose is lyrical and absolutely beautiful. The Picture of Dorian Gray reaches into the (deep and dark) depths of the human soul and examines what is to be found there while asking a question – what does it take for man to become monster?

Reviewed by Tara F ’18

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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

gamIf you have watched the HBO show already or are know nothing about the story A Game of Thrones By George R. R. Martin is a must. The land of Westeros is filled with family feuds, fights for power and lots of emotions. See all the characters while they are still young and alive. Understand why even after being published for twenty years it is still one of the highest rated and talked about book series.

In a land where seasons are so off balance that they can last decades, follow the Starks, Baratheons, Lannisters and many other families lose their trust in each other and try and kill one another. Watch secret alliances form only to fall apart with deception and trickery.

When the king of Westeros dies with no legitimate heir the fight begins. With every family fighting for a claim, chaos breaks out. Wars are fought and many civilians and high lords meet their fatal end. In the words of Cersei Lannister, the queen regent, “when you play the game of thrones you win or you die”.

While everyone is fighting for the crown in the south the men in the north are facing a much larger problem. After one of the longest recorded summers comes to an end, the predicted lifelong winter seems to be brewing and with it come the dead. White walkers seem to be rising from the graves and marching south without anyone stopping them except a 700-foot wall and a few men sworn to protect it.

Hear from different perspectives throughout the story as each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. As the story progresses you feel more and more connected with the different characters and you hear their emotions and secret thoughts. A Game of Thrones is not a book for the fainthearted. In George R.R. Martin’s stories, no character is safe from meeting the bitter end, whether it be by sword, melted gold, fire and countless other ways.

This book series has a huge following due to the readers and watchers getting so invested in the characters and always wanting to know what is next. Because every character is liable to die they never know who will live and who will and die who will eventually end up on the throne. George R. R. Martin notoriously takes years to write new books so in the meantime the following grows and people wait anxiously to hear what will happen.

The world of Westeros awaits.

Reviewed by Sarah C ’18

 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

cover “If good things are coming, they will be a pleasant surprise”. This is one of many of the beautifully crafted words in Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist. From the streets of Andalusia to the deserts of Egypt, we are taken on an adventure that tests the limits of one’s desire for personal treasure. This novel takes you on the journey of a shepherd boy, Santiago, who wishes to find himself through a quest to the Pyramids in Egypt. He trades his old life for a new one where he gets to travel the world looking for his Personal Legend, or, his treasure. No one ever said it would be easy, but was his journey worth the trouble?

The story is presented through the eyes of Santiago. He spends his days following the same paths and in the same surrounding, until one day, he comes across a gypsy who completely turns his life upside down. She delivers the boy a very important message, one that is impossible to ignore. She tells him of a treasure waiting for him in the desert of Egypt, near the pyramids. He tries to resist her words, but how could he? He had been waiting for a change, and this was it. He had the opportunity to finally find out something about his life that had deeper meaning. He would no longer sit in the fields and wonder what lies ahead of him. He could learn the ways of the world and expand his knowledge of the things around him. Despite his doubts, he decides to take the old woman’s advice. He sets off to Egypt and finds himself in a place that is totally unfamiliar. He cannot communicate with anyone, and has no way of finding out if his treasure is even where the gypsy said it would be. Although he feels defeated, he cannot give up. He remembers the omens a wise old man from his village told him before he left for his quest. He must persevere and stay on his path; he cannot abandon what he has set out to do. Many die or move in before they accomplish what the universe intended had for them. The boy must keep his promise to find his treasure, no matter how long it takes for him to find it. When you want something with all your heart, the entire universe will stop at nothing to help you achieve it. In the end, it will all be worth it.

In conclusion, this novel teaches us all about faith and hope and never abandoning our dreams. We need to stand with our hopes and desires and believe whole heartedly we can achieve anything we set our mind to. No matter how long or difficult the process, we must continue on. As the wise friend of Santiago once said “where your treasure is, there also be your heart.”

Reviewed by Lauryn H ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

coverIs it possible to fall in everlasting love in a single moment? Is it possible to beat the best sword master in the land? Does this book even exist? The answer is yes and no. William Goldman introduces us to his novel, The Princess Bride(a real book) as an abriged version of , The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (an imaginary book). The Princess Bride is set in the country of Florin, which is just as imaginary as the author S. Morgenstern. We are introduced to a common girl named Buttercup, who is soon to be the most beautiful woman in the world. However, this causes some problems because she is also soon to be the most coveted woman in the world. Despite this she lives on her family farm with “farm boy,” who she becomes infatuated with, which took her nothing more than a glace to realize. This is when the action and plot starts to speed up. The Princess Bride by William Goldman has anything and everything you could ever want in a book, sword fights, passionate love, and humor to make you laugh through the all pages.

With unexpected twists, turns, deaths, and revivals you will never know what Goldman will come up with for the next page. The book creates romantic scenes and by the end makes fun of it with statements like, “True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.”

This book is filled with in depth and hilarious characters to push the plot along. Buttercup, one of the main characters, is not aware of her beauty and does not care much about her appearance, but as the Goldman says, “How could someone care if she were the most beautiful woman in the world or not. What difference could it have made if you were only the third most beautiful. Or the sixth?” Each character has a paradoxical characteristic, whether it be a peaceful giant who knows more than the know it all who in fact does not know it all.

           The Princess Bride is a satirical love story, but done in a way where you still care for the characters. The language used is easy to read and follow, with sarcastic remarks placed perfectly. If you want to laugh while still being captivated by an action packed love story, I recommend this book, a unique take on a simultaneously classic but exceptional love story.

Reviewed by Emma R ’17 for Literature of the Millennium