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A few months ago, Leslie started a thread here in the book corner with the somewhat ominous subject header of "What would you exchange for eternal youth?" Clicking on the thread led me to information about Rick R. Reed's book, A Face Without A Heart, which is a modern day re-imagining of Oscar Wilde's classic story, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Both books are about a beautiful young man who trades away his soul for eternal youth.

Since I have had fun in the past watching an old movie and the remake back-to-back (most recently with The Shop Around The Corner and You've Got Mail), I thought it would be fun to do that with books too. The opportunity, however, never presented itself until now.

Even though responses in that thread warned against reading the original Wilde novel, I plunged in anyway. Surprisingly enough, I loved it.

Yes, Wilde does tend to meander in his writing, and there are a couple of chapters that are honestly a slog to get through. Regardless, it's a fantastic concept and a joy to read for the most part. I say that as someone who is most definitely not a fan of most literature written during the Victorian age.

For those of you unfamiliar with Wilde, he was in fact homosexual, which was quite a scandal in his time. Because of that, the gay undertones of the novel are very subtle. If you didn't know about the author's own history, it's easy to miss entirely.

Of course, Rick R. Reed had no such barriers to worry about. His version of the story takes place in recent times and features big city life, openly gay characters, drag queens, exotic night clubs, and the like. He follows the Wilde story pretty closely, so there are no major plot surprises if you've read the previous work. That's okay though. What's fun about Rick's book is seeing how he adapts everything to the modern age and re-interprets Wilde's characters. (It took me half the book to figure out why he changed the beautiful name of Dorian Gray to the somewhat less poetic Gary Adrion, but I chuckled when it finally clicked for me. Very clever.)

Thankfully, the pacing is tighter in A Face Without A Heart and the prose is obviously much easier to read. Overall, I loved it.

Do you need to read Dorian Gray to enjoy A Face Without A Heart? Not at all. You could easily just take in Rick's modern adaptation and get more than enough bang for your buck. No knowledge of the Wilde text is required. I just read both for the fun of it and had a great time doing it.

If I've piqued your interest enough to attempt reading the two books back-to-back like I did, I'd love to hear about your experience. Both versions come highly recommended.

Links:

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (best free version IMO)

A Face Without A Heart by Rick R. Reed

 

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Thanks, CS! Great review.

I started Oscar Wilde's book and got about one-third of the way through. Like you, I'm not a big fan of Victorian era writing. On the other hand, I read Rick's book in one sitting. I couldn't put it down.

Next on my to do list is to see the movie. The 1945 version, with a very interesting cast, is supposed to be great.

L
 

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Leslie said:
Next on my to do list is to see the movie. The 1945 version, with a very interesting cast, is supposed to be great.
I didn't even know there was a movie. I'll definitely have to check that out.
 

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There are a number of versions -- the 1945 one is very good.  It was on either AMC or TCM or one of those sorts of channels a few months ago.  As I recall, it's filmed in black and white except for when they show 'the picture'.  Also, I read somewhere that the artist who painted the picture painted it and re-painted it as they were filming for the 'change'.

A very young Angela Lansbury is in it as well. . . .

Ann
 

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rjkeller said:
Anyone seen the Oscar Wilde biopic "Wilde" with Stephen Fry? Awesome movie!
I have. That's how I first found out about Wilde. It would take me another 11 years to actually read him though. :p (Yes, Dorian Gray is the first Wilde I've read.)
 

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I have the Wilde Dorian Gray on my Kindle, but it keeps getting pushed down the TBR list because of constant additions. I wanted to read it because of seeing the movie when I was younger. Now I want to read it and the other one, too! Maybe they can be a couple of my summer, by the pool, reads. I definitely want to have them both read before I see the new Dorian Gray movie.
 
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