Would you trade your soul for eternal youth? Oscar Wilde’s provocative novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, tells the story of a beautiful young man who strikes this Faustian bargain by which a painted portrait fades and ages while he remains untouched by time. His stunning beauty protects him from suspicion in a society that judges by appearances while he spirals into ever more scandalous hedonism and wrongdoing. Wilde defended his sensational tale, which outraged Victorian critics, arguing that art should not be judged by moral standards. The book eventually became evidence in a criminal case that sent Wilde to prison for two years for “gross indecency” with men, and ever since the gripping tale retains its power as a key text for anyone skeptical of the stifling constraints of dominant culture or the obsession with superficial beauty that defines our age.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish poet and playwright who rose to global fame in the 1880s as a larger-than-life public persona with plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, and Lady Windermere’s Fan. The author of countless brilliant epigrams that form part of our popular lexicon, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in prison for having relations with men, which ruined his reputation and career. Upon his release he exiled himself in France, where he died penniless. Today Wilde is celebrated as a courageous crusader for free expression, gay love, and anyone oppressed by hypocritical conventions.
Ulrich Baer holds a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Yale. He is University Professor at New York University, where he teaches literature and photography. He has been awarded Guggenheim, Getty, and Alexander von Humboldt fellowships. He is the author of Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Dark Interval, Letters on Life, and Letters to a Young Poet. Other books include Spectral Evidence, What Snowflakes Get Right, and in the Warbler Press Contemplations series: Dickinson on Love, Nietzsche on Love, Rilke on Love, Wilde on Love, and Shakespeare on Love.
“Mr. Wilde has brains, and art, and style; but, if he can write for none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph-boys, the sooner he takes to tailoring (or some decent trade) the better.”
—The Scots Observer
Price: $12.95 (paperback) | $2.99 (ebook)
Pages: 244 pages
Book dimensions: 5.25 x 0.5 x 8 inches
Published: March 31, 2020