Lovely piece today from Alex Ross, to be published in the upcoming New Yorker.
Ross, here, has done some rather wonderful research, especially in his reading and writeup of the changes between manuscript and published versions of the story (which, after all, is the titular concept of the article).
At the same time, Wilde’s revisions to the opening dialogue between Basil and Lord Henry betray a rising anxiety, an urge to lower the emotional temperature. Exclamations over Dorian’s beauty give way to more reserved remarks about his “good looks” and “personality.” “Passion” becomes “feeling,” “pain” becomes “perplexity.”This article is pretty intense at some points, or at least as intense as an article on the literature of a rich, dead white guy can reasonably be.
Question: what is a thing about? What is the nature of a thing? The topic? The focus? This is a question that comes up for me sometimes when I'm reading stories or scholarly articles. Is Dorian Gray about homosexuality? About art? Just a good story? Whatever the answer, Ross has done some excellent work here, and his article (yes, I checked his gender on the New Yorker website before I wrote this) is most assuredly worth a read.