The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • by Oscar Wilde
  • Narrated by Simon Prebble
  • 8 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, the dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged---petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral---while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying and enchanting readers for more than 100 years. Taking the reader in and out of London drawing rooms, to the heights of aestheticism, and to the depths of decadence, The Picture of Dorian Gray is not simply a melodrama about moral corruption. Laced with bon mots and vivid depictions of upper-class refinement, it is also a fascinating look at the milieu of Wilde's fin-de-siècle world and a manifesto of the creed "Art for Art's Sake."The ever-quotable Wilde, who once delighted London with his scintillating plays, scandalized readers with this, his only novel. Upon publication, Dorian was condemned as dangerous, poisonous, stupid, vulgar, and immoral, and Wilde as a "driveling pedant." The novel, in fact, was used against Wilde at his much-publicized trials for "gross indecency," which led to his imprisonment and exile on the European continent. Even so, The Picture of Dorian Gray firmly established Wilde as one of the great voices of the Aesthetic movement and endures as a classic that is as timeless as its hero.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Oscar Wilde’s classic endures with its gems of astute observation and cynical wit. The eerie story follows a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty in the form of a supernatural portrait. Life's mysterious paradoxes are laced throughout Lord Henry's brilliant aphorisms. Gray is urged by Henry to "love the wonderful life that is in you." The novel's qualities are mired in decadence, "art for art's sake," the new hedonism of the Victorian-era upper class, and societal moral corruption. Simon Prebble perfectly achieves Lord Henry's "low, languid voice" and sparkling conversation, while avidly expressing the other characters' more torrid emotions. Prebble brings the fable's gothic horror to life, but the more youthful characters lack believable intonation.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

This Should be Next In Your Library, Period

What made the experience of listening to The Picture of Dorian Gray the most enjoyable?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a stunningly beautiful book, among my very favourites. I had not read it for many years when I stumbled upon this performance of it, and it has instantly rocketed to the top of the "Top 10" list in my Audible library.

This cautionary, "be careful what you wish for" tale contains many of Oscar Wilde's most celebrated lines, including my personal favourite, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Beautiful-but-outrageous dialogue like this brings a lightness and some comedy to this otherwise sad story.

I'm not sure if I've ever given 5 stars across the board before, but this performance of this wonderful book is surely deserving of it. I can't recommend it highly enough.


Which character – as performed by Simon Prebble – was your favorite?

Prebble gives a near-perfect performance. Each character has a distinctive voice, but the distinctions are subtle and totally believable, unlike some narrators who I think go overboard. His "Basil Hallwood" in particular is beautifully human; every ounce of the characters kindness, and his love for Dorian, comes shining through.


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- Paul

Satire of aestheticism

Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray tends to be classified as "horror" because the underlying premise is indeed one of supernatural horror: a dissolute young man is blessed/cursed with eternal youth, thanks to a portrait painted by an artist friend of his which reflects all the sins and depravities of his debauched life. As Dorian Gray stays young and beautiful, his portrait becomes more and more ghastly, until the karmic climax.

Nonetheless, if you actually read the novel, the "horror" aspects, particularly the supernatural parts, are understated. Dorian Gray, who begins as a rather callow but not evil youth, falls under the cynical influence of Lord Henry Wotton, a professional member of the do-nothing aristocratic class. When the painter Basil Hallward captures Dorian's Adonis-like perfection on canvas, Dorian is overcome with the tragedy of his own face growing old and wrinkled while the painting will always capture him as he was, young and perfect. He wishes it could be the reverse, and gets his wish.

Unlike in the movie versions, there is no magical Egyptian cat-god or explicit deal with the Devil that makes this happen — for Oscar Wilde, Dorian Gray's selling of his soul was entirely metaphorical. He was apparently satirizing the Aesthetic Movement (though he was himself one of its more prominent representatives) which can best be summarized as "Art for Art's Sake." It was associated with decadence and disregard for social and moral judgments; Dorian Gray was a literal manifestation of the Aesthetic ideal: he sold his soul for Art (or rather, a piece of art).

Dorian becomes increasingly heartless after his cruel treatment of Sylvia Vane, whom he loved for her art but then jilted when she let him down artistically. After a brief attempt at redemption, he becomes one of the most notorious men in London, though notably, the precise nature of his many evil deeds is never described, leaving it all up to the reader's lascivious imagination. He ruins lives and destroys everyone close to him, yet still manages to keep a few close friends like Lord Henry and Basil.

(I definitely picked up some homoerotic vibes between Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil, which is interesting since apparently Wilde had to cut out some of the more overt homoeroticism when it went from serialization in a magazine to publication as a novel.)

So, read as a horror novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray is kind of lightweight — it's definitely not "scary" — and as a satire/criticism of the Aesthetic Movement, it is not terribly subtle. However, Oscar Wilde was most famous for his bon mots, and reading Dorian, Lord Henry, and Basil exchange wry witticisms is the real pleasure of the novel, even if none of them talk like actual people having real conversations. This book could be mined for quotable lines on every page, and as a story of a man falling headfirst into Faustian temptation, it definitely has its literary moments. It is not perfect (it's awfully convenient how often Dorian escapes judgment by someone else's timely death, and the prose is a bit turgidly Victorian), but it's a solid 4 star book. Definitely worth reading for the one-liners and for absorbing a very readable literary classic.
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- David

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-12-2008
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio