The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

read by Rupert Graves

Wilde's literary conceit is well known - the painting in the attic taking on the care-worn characteristics of a dissolute, immoral and criminal life, leaving the man to retain his gilded, youthful, innocent beauty. It is the stuff of ancient and classical myths, and has much to say to a modern generation obsessed by celebrity, shallow glamour and delaying the aging process.

The writing is mannered and not Wilde's most literary. He revised the rather short work for book publication and removed many of the overt references to his own homosexuality. One wonders just how much Dorian is what Wilde himself would have liked to have been. He certainly defied convention and followed a self-destructive existence. Wilde was no Dorian when it came to looks and physique. Perhaps he was searching throughout his life for the missing painting and for the painter to find grace and beauty in him.

Although The Picture of Dorian Gray lends itself to dramatisation and film - and has been adapted several times for both stage and screen (the latest feature film providing the artwork for the present packaging) - attempts to illustrate the degredation of the painting seem inevitably to disappoint. All the gaudy decadence and cruelty of the characters and events of the book may be conjured up by skilful art directors and extravagant wardrobe specialists, but it is only in the reader's own imagination that the horror in the locked room can be successfully and truly realised. Which is why this reading is so outstanding and why Wilde's book will for ever remain in print.

CSA have once again cast their narrator with great skill and judgement. Who better to read Wilde than Rupert Graves? As if effortlessly, Graves affects all the langorousness and excess, all the selfishness and sadism, and all the residing self-loathing. He is one of our finest actors and one of the most eloquent.

Quite brilliant
* * * * *
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