February 23, 2005

Preface to Dorian Gray

Once again, I am not happy with this Wilde guy. I have a feeling that I will not enjoy his book, as he has done nothing but bash art in what I have read to date.

The Preface to Dorian Gray is a set of statements about art. Please read. If you are an artist, or even appreciate the arts, you will understand the tirade that follows:

First, Wilde begins by saying that the artist is a creator of beautiful things. Alright, he had my attention, I will admit that. Nice opening line. He goes on to say that those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt and those who find beautiful meaning in ugly things are cultivated. So, he apparently prefers optimists. He goes on:

"The nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass."

Maybe I am cofused here, but I would think that from a Realists point of view, one would be ecstatic to find that Caliban saw his face...given that it was not distorted......aaa..I talked myself through that one. I assume then, that one's reflection would be distorted and ugly, not realistic, and this unwanted.

"No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style."

I feel that artists are out to prove things daily. Even if they are widely known to be true, an artist still has the freedom to explore and present this truth in a new way, let alone reassure it's validity. And ethical sympathies....artists have them! How, I would like to know is this an unpardonable mannerism of style. I would hope that this sympathy would only make the artist's work more colorful and more apt to personal style.

"All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril."

Is he saying here that if you dare to understand art that you will never surface from the evil depths of its emotional jungle ever again? Oh, how sad, that you too might enter a world of passion and beauty.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at February 23, 2005 8:26 PM

Wilde said it himself -- the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all. The Hollywood version of that is "There is no such thing as bad publicity." By always saying something that offended absolutely everybody, he managed to keep people interested in him.

He was an accomplished lecturer, and went on tours where people who heard of him crowded in to see whether he was for real... think Richard Simmons, or RuPaul, or maybe Dennis Rodman.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 24, 2005 12:23 AM

Melissa writes:

"He goes on to say that those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt and those who find beautiful meanings in ugly things are cultivated."

The first part is correct, though it important to remember the full quotation: "...corrupt without being charming. This is a fault."

Thus, one reading might find corruption with charm faultless.

Melissa missed the second part of the quotation, however, which may be at the root of some of her rancor:

"Those who find beautiful meanings in BEAUTIFUL things are the cultivated. For these there is hope."

Perhaps this clears up some misunderstanding?

Posted by: Brennan O'Rear at April 15, 2005 11:57 AM