If any of you follow me on Facebook, you might remember that I challenged myself to read nothing but classic literature all summer. I shamefully admit that I put down Dickens’ Bleak House because I could not get through the first chapter without falling asleep. I started Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility twice and lost interest. (Sorry, Austen fans. I tried.) However, I did not give up on the classics. I picked up Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at a used bookstore. Holy Neck Bolts! I discovered a treasure. I will review that book on my blog soon. I promise you a big surprise, too. I can’t wait.
That summer I read and enjoyed some incredible classic novels. I put a few back on the bookshelf unread, too. I’m only human. (Tolstoy? C’mon.)
I continued reading classics throughout the fall and winter which is how I came across The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. That is the last book I read, so without further ado, I shall commence blogging about it.
I give it two thumbs up. I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, the cat found it dull and the characters too human. At one point, while I read an incredibly well written passage aloud, she bestowed upon me a look of both apathy and annoyance–an expression only a feline can master. She then stood up, turned around and sat down again with her back to me in a non-verbal expletive of true disinterest. She obviously prefers Oscar Wilde plays.
To start us off, here is a description of the main character:
Dorian Gray – a handsome and narcissistic young man who becomes enthralled with…(the) idea of a new hedonism. He begins to indulge in every kind of pleasure, moral and immoral. (Source: Wikipedia)
Wait as second. Back up here. Something about that sounds familiar doesn’t it? Whom does this character reference describe? I’ll give you a moment to think about it.
Give up? Let’s turn on the news and watch for a few minutes.
*switching to the all-news channel* “Libya, Wisconsin, Gas Prices, Economy, Charlie Sheen.” Yes! That’s the one.
It only took seven minutes for Charlie Sheen to be mentioned. Hmmm, people must be losing interest because last night it only took five minutes.
This got me thinking. A dangerous pastime, I know.
There are many parallels between Dorian Gray (the character described above) and Charlie Sheen. Dorian Gray didn’t have his own webcast to show him living it up with porn stars, but, perhaps Dorian let people peek through his windows while he cavorted with loose Can-Can girls. It could’ve happened. I’m just saying…
Once again I rely on the place where the modern world gets its information: Wikipedia. Here’s a quick overview of one of the themes in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
“Dorian’s major flaw is that he is never able to hold himself accountable, instead, avoiding admission of responsibility by justifying his actions according to the philosophy of the new hedonism.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Question for you: Is the “new hedonism” of the Victorian era the “old hedonism” of today? It hasn’t changed all that much since the late 1800’s, has it? Drugs, orgies, egocentric and deviant behavior without thought of consequence.
Dorian Gray is a handsome, wealthy, spoiled, self-destructive pleasure-seeker. Sound familiar? Dorian seeks fulfillment with powerful, addictive drugs, hordes of women and non-stop sex. Ring any bells? Sound like anyone we know?
Dorian finds out no matter how many drugs he takes, how many parties he attends, how many women (and men) he beds (at the same time or individually) he is not happy. Yes, dear readers, all this can be found in a 19th century piece of literature. I’m not kidding. Doesn’t this make you want to read the book?
While in the blush and vigor of his youth, Dorian Gray has his portrait painted. But, it’s not an ordinary painting. You see, everything Dorian does that harms him physically or morally changes his portrait somehow. As Dorian sinks to ever lowering levels of debauchery, the uglier the portrait becomes. And descend into depravity, he does. It doesn’t take long before the picture becomes too repulsive to look at, so he hides it.
Dorian continues to get weirder and it continues to get uglier. Weirder how? Well, read the book and find out. Put it this way, if they had The National Enquirer back then, he’d be all over it. He might even have his own column in the “Dear Penthouse” section of that magazine. Uh huh. You’re even more curious now, aren’t you? Just read the book.
Dorian spends a good portion of the novel chasing the high he felt when he first started indulging in hedonism. Just like any addict, he wants to feel that first, orgasmic rush again. He consumes more and more opium trying to find it. Frustrated that he cannot attain that feeling, he turns to sex, fetishism and violence. Admit it. You want to go to Amazon and buy this book right now.
Dorian ultimately alienates everyone who ever cared about him. Did anyone see the interview with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez? Yeah, like that.
In the novel, Dorian does not age and remains handsome. Charlie Sheen, however, lost his youth and beauty a while back, so at least we know there isn’t a portrait somewhere in his attic growing older. There’s still hope for him.
I believe that Charlie Sheen sees himself through the eyes of his own moral “portrait.” He can’t see how distorted his picture gets day by day because he’s trapped inside it just like Dorian’s soul. Everyone looking at the painting can see ‘the portrait’ will explode in some sensational accident. Or maybe it will implode. The canvas will pull from the frame, shrivel and disintegrate with one occurrence of overindulgence too many.
Like it or not folks, we have ringside seats at the destruction. At least any Victorians peeking in Dorian’s windows chose to catch a glimpse into the noxious behavior of a sad narcissist. We don’t get that choice. Just try not to hear, read or watch anything about Charlie Sheen in the coming week. My bet is it cannot be done. Even if you curl up in a ball under your bed with your iPod on full blast, you cannot escape it.
Eventually, you’d get hungry. So…
You’d wander into the kitchen and find the New York Times sitting on your table. The New York Times, people! It’s true. Even they are publishing stories on Charlie Sheen. After you slam the paper into the recycle bin, you take it to the curb. Guess what? There’s your neighbor. She can’t wait to discuss the latest porn star interview on E! You duck back inside and log-on to check your email. Guess what? Yahoo and Google want you to know the latest developing stories, so they put them right there where you can’t miss ‘em. Charlie Sheen ties monkey to chest and skips rope down the street while singing, “I’m a winner!” to the tune of the old Dr. Pepper commercial. Oh yeah, there’s also some other story about Khadafi…but he doesn’t have a webcast.
Back to the book The Picture of Dorian Gray:
Poor, unhappy, lonely, Dorian learns he cannot keep living the way he has been. He ends up acting out in pure desperation. No, I’m not going to tell you what this tortured character does. Read the book. It’s juicy.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – I recommend it. The ending is rather awesome.
The Picture of Destruction by Charlie Sheen – Coming to a screen near you. I hope and pray Charlie can find a way out of his own portrait, take a good look at himself and move away from the hedonism that never fulfills anyone. Dorian would agree. I’m sure of it.