The Picture of Dorian Gray, most of the original's characters are cleverly transmuted into their late-20th-century coun"/>
 

DORIAN: An Imitation

Will Self, Author
Will Self, Author . Grove $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1729-8
Reviewed on: 01/06/2003
Release date: 12/01/2002
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-14-101319-0
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-14-029056-1
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-14-188633-6
Acrobat Ebook Reader - 978-0-14-188579-7
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-8021-4047-0
Paperback - 277 pages - 978-0-14-104020-2
Paperback - 978-2-02-081329-7
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In this retelling of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, most of the original's characters are cleverly transmuted into their late-20th-century counterparts: dissolute Henry Wotton, now openly homosexual with a nasty heroin habit; his protégé, eager young video artist "Baz" Hallward; and the title character, the quintessential amoral narcissist and a "seducer par excellence" (of men and, occasionally, women). In the summer of 1981, Hallward captures Gray's youth and beauty in a video installation that he titles "Cathode Narcissus." He and Wotton take Gray under their wing and school him in the ways of profligate London living, early '80s-style. By 1997, all three are HIV-positive, though Dorian, of course, shows no sign of illness. Self uses Wilde's plot to examine post-Stonewall gay life, from its drug-fueled hedonistic excesses to the reckoning of the AIDS epidemic. The novel skewers every layer of British society—street hustlers, members of Parliament and the idle rich. Real-life figures also appear, most notably the "princess of bulimia," Diana Spencer. The prose is laced with epigrammatic, lightly amusing pseudo-Wildean wit ("I want my sins to be like sushi—fresh, small and entirely raw," says Wotton), but its wordplay and evocation of debauchery also owe something to Evelyn Waugh and Martin Amis (channeling Hunter Thompson and Irvine Welsh). Self's mannered prose can grow tedious, and there's hardly a sympathetic character to be found, but the writer has undertaken—and largely succeeded in pulling off—a daring act of literary homage. (Jan.)

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