Sunday, October 27, 2019

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (horror)

The Picture of Dorian Gray explores what can happen to a man's life when he is manipulated by the wrong influence.
' "Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him." ' -Dorian (p. 115)
photo by ldyck

Published by Dover Publications 
Published in 1993
first book edition published by Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd.
 London, in 1891

As The Picture of Dorian Gray has long been one of my favourite movies (shot in 1945--who knew there was another shot in 2009?) I thought it was high time to read the book. As a movie-goer, I was rattled by what happened to the portrait. As a reader, I'm far more interested in the interplay between Basil Hallward (portrait painter), Lord Henry Wotton, and Dorian Gray.

I see Basil as the angel figuratively sitting on Dorian's right shoulder.
' "I want you to lead such a life as will make the world respect you. I want you to have a clean name and a fair record." ' -Basil to Dorian (p. 111)
Lord Henry is the devil sitting on Dorian's left shoulder.

On page 12, Basil attempts  to warn Dorian:  Lord Henry ' "has a very bad influence over all his friends." '

On page 67, Dorian makes plans to 'resist temptation. He would not see Lord Henry any more.'

And yet... And yet Basil observes of Dorian on page 79:  ' "You talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you. It is all Harry's influence." '

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a short novel (165 pages) cleverly written. The book opens with a scene between Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton. This exchange introduces Dorian Gray. The book ends with a haunting mystery ensuring that the tale will live on in the mind of the reader. Oscar Wilde fills each page with wit, wisdom and social commentary. The only fault I can find is that there is a lot of dialogue but very little action--heads floating in the ether.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar (Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) Wilde's first novel and sadly his last, due to extremely harsh criticism. The British press condemned it as "vulgar", "unclean", and "poisonous". After the novel's publication, Wilde employed his talent to craft plays--society comedies, such as Lady Windermere's Fan (first performed on February 20, 1892, at the St. James's Theatre in London) and The Importance of Being Earnest (first performed on February 14, 1895, at the St. James's Theatre in London).


Oscar Wilde quotes

On this blog in November...

photo by ldyck

November 3 
Writing about Writing

To my delight, you clicked the link to read the list of quotes I shared with you this month. And so next month I'll share a list compiled from the books I've reviewed. The theme of this collection is... You guessed it. Writing about Writing.

November 10
book review
Emma Donoghue

What's this book about?
Well, I'll sum it up like this...
"What did you do during the war, Mom?"
"What did you do to end poverty, Son?"

November 17
short story
The Island Storyteller on Stage

I wrote this (silly story of thanks) short story to be read during an evening of storytelling and music on November 30th in the Agricultural Society Hall on Mayne Island. It would be wonderful to see you in the audience, but if not... I hope you enjoy reading this story.

November 24
book review
The End of the Affair 
Graham Greene

Years ago, someone recommended that I read Graham Greene. Years later, I finally found him. And I can't wait to tell you about him. (Also, if you've recommended a book to me... Please don't lose patience. I am listening.)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Craftsman (short story) by Leanne Dyck

Many years ago, when I was in elementary school, a story I wrote was published in my rural community newspaper--The Interlake Spectator. My first published story... I thought it was gone. I was grieving its loss. But too early one morning, the plot shook off layers and layers of dust, stood up and said, "Don't be sad. I'm still here."

All that was left for me to do was to write the story.

photo by ldyck

The Craftsman

Early one October morning, Mary watched her husband John put his knife and flint into his possibles bag and strap his gun to his horse. 

She kissed him.

"Be safe," she whispered, like a blessing.

Mary held baby Anna so John could kiss her cheek.

Looking at her husband, she forced a smile--We'll be fine. Go. Go.

"Ho," John called and his horse's hoofs struck the ground like a drum.

A breeze chilled Mary's blood as she watched John ride away, disappearing into the woods. She was a lone sentinel on the vast prairie, facing the wildness of the place.

"Bye, baby Bunting/Daddy's gone a-hunting." The bottom of Mary's calico dress dusted the log cabin's dirt floor as she paced, Anna in arms. "Gone to get a rabbit skin/To wrap the Baby Bunting in." Verse by verse, Mary persisted until she lulled Anna to sleep and placed her in the crib. Peace.

A sound... Just outside the cabin. An animal? John? Visualizing pelts strung across his back, she threw open the door.

Buckskin fringe. Long black hair.

Mary recoiled; her heartbeats raced.

He smelled like wild like a bear.

She searched the cabin, looking for... The rifle was propped in the far corner of the room--more than an arms reach away.

Looking back, she saw the savage fall to the ground. Then she noticed the blood.  Had he been the victim of a bear? Wolves?

Fighting through fear, Mary helped the wounded creature to the quilt she'd spread on the floor.  She pulled up his blood-stained tunic and found the inflamed cuts that crossed his belly. She dipped a clean rag into the water bucket and used it to wash his wound. The rag was soon soaked with blood. She used another rag and another. The blood wouldn't stop. She cut a long strip from... What? A bed sheet. She made a thick pad with more rags and applied that to the wound. Helping him to sit, she put his hand on the rags on his belly and pressed down so he knew to keep it there. She wrapped the long strip over the pad of rags and around his torso. After securing the bandage, she helped him to lay back down. His body went limp. Was he resting or had he passed out from pain?

Arms full of firewood, Mary made her way back to the cabin. She pushed the door open to... The savage stood over her sleeping baby--knife in hand.

Mary shrieked, dropped the wood and reached for the rifle. She turned back around to shot...

He'd slipped away like a ghost.

A woman alone in a cabin could be easy prey for a band of savages. Mary pushed the thought away--over and over again. That night she slept with the loaded rifle under her bed.

On her way to get more firewood, Mary noticed a bundle wrapped in buckskin. Bringing it inside, she unwrapped the bundle and found beaded moccasins. She slipped them on her baby's feet and they fit perfectly.

Gratitude for kindness exchanged for kindness, transformed this story into a family legend about a skilled craftsman. 

After my short story was published, a friend's mom asked, "So that was a story about your dad's mom?"

Feeling a little ashamed for fooling her, I softly said, "I made that story up."

She didn't say anything and I thought she might be angry at me. But then she said, "Oh, that's good. That's a very good story." And she smiled like maybe I'd impressed her.


photo by ldyck
Next Sunday evening...

Published in 1890, the British Press condemned The Picture of Dorian Gray as "vulgar", "unclean" and "poisonous". But I thought...  

Sunday, October 13, 2019

20+ Book Reviewers (list) by Leanne Dyck

'Flowers in the Fall' photo by ldyck

Where are the must-read books? What book should you read next? Who will review my new book? These bloggers know...

Children's Literature

Celebrate Picture Books 

A team of women readers who review a mix of genres.

Reviews:  mystery, speculative fiction, and Young Adult
DOES NOT REVIEW:  horror or racy romance
NO Arcs

Adult Literature

Breakeven Books

Books and Ladders (science fiction, fantasy and contemporary)

photo by ldyck

Next Sunday evening on this blog...

The Craftsman (short story)
While in elementary school, a short story I wrote was published in my community's newspaper. The plot for The Craftsman was derived from that story.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Writing about Writers (list of quotes) collected by Leanne Dyck

On October 10th this blog will be nine years old. Do you believe it? Nine. To celebrate, I re-read the quotes I gathered since 2012--when I started reviewing books for this blog. I'll offer these quotes in thematic collections over the next three months--including October, including today. Please click on the links provided under each quote to read my book reviews.

"An Autumn Road" photo by ldyck

Writing about Writers

To be a successful writer:  ' "You must have talent. A thick skin. And most important luck... To make luck you must be clever, or blessed." ' The Delusionist, Grant Buday

'I wonder if I'll ever write anything worth anything.' 
The Help, Kathryn Stockett

'What's the point of writing something that no one will ever read? I forget who said that a work of art does not exist without an audience--that it's not enough for it to be made.' 
Motherhood, Sheila Heti

'[N]early everything seems a letdown after a writer has finished writing something.' 

'This is how we go on:  one day at a time, one meal at a time, one pain at a time, one breath at a time... If you write books, you go one page at a time.' Bag of Bones, Stephen King

'As a child I wrote small books which I began with the words The End. I needed to know the end was guaranteed.' 
Bluebeard's Egg, Margaret Atwood

'The writing had burned off all thoughts of the real world, at least temporarily. I think that, in the end, that's what it's for. Good or bad, it passes the time.' Bag of Bones, Stephen King

My teacher 'said that when you are writing a book you have to include some descriptions of things... She also said that I should describe people in the story by mentioning one or two details about them so that people could make a picture of them in their head.' 

'When you make your daily bread in the land of make-believe, the line between what is and what seems to be is much finer.' 
Bag of Bones, Stephen King

'Writers are a strange breed. Magpies, scavengers. So fearful of the world they would prefer to describe it than live in it, yet brave to the point of idiocy when in pursuit of inspiration. The real ones will slip their heads into the noose and pull the lever themselves if they think a hanging would make a good tale.' 
The Only Child, Andrew Pyper

'[B]ut in dreams, perhaps everyone is a novelist.' 
Bag of Bones, Stephen King

'Flowers in the Fall' photo by ldyck

Next Sunday evening on this blog... 

23 Book Bloggers
a list of 23 bloggers who review books

If you enjoyed this list of quotes, you'll also enjoy...

Writing about Writing (list of quotes)
will be published on this blog on Sunday, November 3

Hmm... (list of quotes)
I invite you to select a quote to focus on during December--a challenging month for many.
will be published on this blog on Sunday, December 1