The other night I had a nightmare about The Fainting Game, which I heard on the Pseudopod podcast. I woke up with images of dissolving flesh and bone, and a vague feeling of complex undercurrents between young people and how those interactions are reflections of even more complex interactions with their parents. Worlds under worlds.
It was a very cool dream, really, and the story is incredibly cool itself. (There’s lots of good stuff on Pseudopod, check it out if horror short stories are your thing).
This month I finally got around to reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray*. Like many people, I’ve known the premise of the story for a very long time, but had never read the actual story. Last year I picked up a free Kindle book “The Wolf of Dorian Gray“, and decided I should probably get around to reading the Portrait before starting it. That was a mistake.
Like most classics, there’s a lot more to it than I was expecting. Knowing what little I do about Wilde, I wasn’t surprised by the never quite explicit homoerotic romantic triangle, but I was surprised by the teen suicide.
It’s about a subtle seduction, not necessarily sexual. From the vantage point of a 21st Century audience, it hardly matters whether there is a sexual element in it, it’s more of the deliberate manipulation of someone’s personality and desires which shocks. In fact, the more obviously sexual of the suitors, Basil, seems to represent goodness (if not virtue), while the more cerebral of the two (Lord Henry) is most definitely a corrupting influence.
Of course, I had a good idea of how the supernatural horror would play out before picking up the book, but it was the corruption of Dorian’s nature which I found really disturbing. I’m not at all sure that Lord Henry realized what he was doing, but… very creepy stuff, in a subtle way.
Having read ‘Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters‘ a few months after finishing the Craftlit rendition of Sense and Sensibilty I thought I knew what to expect. That mash up did a good job of taking the same characters and situations, adding in Lovecraftian horror, taking out a lot of the complexity but hitting all the same beats and keeping the framework the same.
In the Wolf there’s a ‘prelude’ which is put in for ‘drama’. It’s completely unnecessary (your audience is primed to expect the ‘boring’ bits of the original story, at least a little bit), and, worse than that, it’s trite.
In the opening scenes it’s clear that two sides of the homoerotic triangle have been gender flipped. It’s a choice, but it’s such a boring one. I get it that modern books really should have strong female characters, but why not flip all three?
Then there’s the setting. This book isn’t about a Victorian society which is prim on the surface and has a seething underbelly full of barely suppressed sexuality. No, it’s all on the surface, with upper class ladies openly cavorting with whores. In short, it’s a fantasy setting which is more suited for high adventure than Gothic horror.
OK. I’ve talked myself out of throwing my Kindle at the wall.
Note to self: next time, wait a year or more before reading the mash up.
Note to self: read more classics. There is usually a lot more to them than the elevator pitch.
* No link here. You all know about the book, and shouldn’t have any trouble tracking it down if this makes you want to get a round tuit.