As booksellers, we often overhear customers lamenting that they've always meant to read “that other Jane Austen novel,” or Graham Greene, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but just never found the time. We've tried to remedy that with our Classics I Forgot to Read Book Club by providing motivation and a welcoming space to share your thoughts.

In choosing our ‘classics’ over the past few years, we've tried to select titles that had some visibility among readers, but were not necessarily included in the standard high school English class. We've also sampled a range of genres, from mystery (The Long Goodbye) to comedy (Cold Comfort Farm) to stream-of-consciousness (To the Lighthouse). So, whether our picks are already gathering dust on your bookshelves or this is your first encounter with the literary canon, we encourage you to join us on the last Wednesday evening of every month for conversation about the classics.

Friday, March 19, 2010

February 2010--The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

The premise of this novel is by now so familiar that it no longer holds its original shock value. What does perhaps come as a surprise for modern readers is that Wilde wasn't really playing for the shock value in the first place. The book's gimmick, if you want to call it a gimmick, is deployed gradually, and Dorian Gray's fatal trajectory is easy enough to foresee. Rather than plot twists and reversals, the emphasis is on ideas and aesthetics. Beauty (in various guises--youth, physical beauty, fashion sense, artistic sensibility, intellectual vigor) is the ultimate imperative for Wilde's protagonists, and yet the single-minded pursuit of beauty leads to dissipation and decay. The paradox is in the end insoluble, and perhaps that's the enduring appeal of the novel--it speaks to our fascination with beauty, to our uneasy knowledge that the fascination is dangerous, and to our willingness to be fascinated anyhow.

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