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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Jul 18, 2013

Book (cover) Review

I know I should be ashamed that I'm finally getting around to reading this book. It's been on my reading list for over 15 years--no kidding. When on our honeymoon in June, we stayed at a lovely B&B in Annapolis, MD; Chez Ami. One of the decorative books placed around the room was a hardbound copy of the Oscar Wilde classic. I began reading it on our first night while trying to beat back my chronic insomnia. I got through four chapters before nodding off. Then we left the inn for the second leg of our bike trip.

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I'll stop right here and say that this is actually more of a review on the design of this book--the Penguin Classic paperback version of Dorian Gray.

On the third leg of our trip, we spent the night in Washington, DC. And in the morning we headed off to find the Rock Creek Parkway bike trail into Northern Virginia. My new husband surprised me with this book after we crossed the bridge and I was elated!! When we paused for a water break, I examined the book jacket and became disappointed in the Penguin Classics graphic design team.

Wilde's descriptive prose--and my imagination--drew a picture of a dewy youth with light eyes and a warm complexion whose androgynous good looks could charm men, women, and the stars from the skies. Regardless of the text, I pictured this unlined boy with dark hair that contrasted with his pale eyes and added  a bit of rogueishness to the cherubic innocence that Wilde presented.

Folded cover, detail
The Penguin design team didn't agree with me. Instead, they gave their readers a pasty- faced, rosy-cheeked fop, with fair close-cropped hair, and very little attraction or appeal. When I pulled out the book to continue reading, I realized that the cover portrait was ruining my enjoyment of the book. I folded the cover back and continued reading.

Between, biking, strolling, dining, and enjoying the wonderful company or my new hubby, I finished the book. It was a *good read. In it, Wilde alluded to the exploits of Dorian in the chastest of terms (by today's standards). Our young Mr. Gray was a sociopath, who used his appeal to poison the lives and reputations of others. He then killed without remorse and easily placed the blame for his actions on the innocents who loved him.

FYI, the cover portrait is a John Singer Sargent piece painted in 1900.
*Wilde, like many of his contemporaries, is a great lover of the English language. His words paint a canvas in the imagination and he leaves nothing to chance. That said, it's a departure from the utilitarian style of modern fiction writers.

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