My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Like the author, I read Oscar Wilde’s classic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray as a precocious child. Also like the author, I picked up on the erotic content so skillfully buried and hinted at in the prose. Later, I read that Mr. Wilde had been forced to edit the story, and I wondered how he would have written had he lived in a different age and had been free to share more of his wildly exuberant intellect and varied proclivities. Reading Mitzi Szereto’s Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, I was pleased to be in the hands of a writer who respected and admired Mr. Wilde and his work as much as I do. I was pleased we live in a time where Dorian Gray’s story could come to its logical and more satisfying conclusion. I was delighted every step of the way because, as horrific as some of his actions were to read, they were logical and right. Ms. Szereto pulls no punches, and I applaud her for it. If you’re after a sweet romance, look elsewhere. This is the story of a man’s slide into his own personal hell, made more awful because it starts out being his idea of heaven on earth and made more beautiful by the lyrical writing that fans of Mr. Wilde’s writing will treasure.
The premise is simple. Dorian Gray (he who vowed to live a life of unapologetic decadence and depravity, somehow gaining eternal youth while his portrait aged and decayed) did not die as he had to during Oscar Wilde’s time, a time when this final punishment was demanded to offset the rest of the titillating story. Instead, it’s explained, his death was faked so he could go on delving ever deeper into his twisted desires. Few things are left out here as Dorian revels in his freedom to be just as bad as he wants to be. Some of it turned me on. Some of it turned my stomach. But, like all truly great erotica, everything contributed to the story, and it all had a purpose. It all fit. Where the original book had the cadence of a carriage ride through the countryside, this one was more like a ride on the Orient Express, a ride where the devil took the wheel a few times.
The settings are lush and varied. Paris. New Orleans. Marrakesh. Peru. Again, this plays into the sense of diving headfirst into something strange and exotic, a foreign place for most of us where anything can happen next, and nothing is off limits. There’s a lack of control for the reader that plays into the experiences had by Dorian. And then, Dorian meets creatures even more depraved and soulless than he has become and the story offers hope as it seems Dorian (who started off in Oscar’s tale as such a likable chap, don’t forget) might still redeem himself.
I won’t give away the ending, but will say that it was perfect. Exactly what needed to happen to this great literary character. Oscar Wilde would raise a glass to Ms. Szereto for penning such a fine continuation to his classic story.