Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

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I instantly warmed to the plush-lipped youth depicted in the pre Sibyl Vain era of Dorian’s life. His inability to see himself through the eyes of others alluded to a boyish charm that sparked the inevitable attraction of others; which, tragically so, was the catalyst for his demise.

Shown the merit of his own reflection through the adoration and skill of painter Basil Hallward, Dorian allows himself to be nurtured by a sociopathic spectator, Lord Henry Wooton, embracing a new-found confidence in owning the pleasures of life and art. This soon transpires in to a vulgar obsession to maintain his place on the pedestal upon which others put him.

Hastily developing a hedonistic mind-set that would over shadow his very exisitence, he begins to value beauty over substance. After selling his soul for enternal youth, the consequences of such an act began to manisfest inside Basil’s painting.

Though he’d long but traded his innocence for lust and luxury, his relations with Sibyl Vain was a cornerstone, or more a tombstone, for my opinion on Dorian. Subconciously wishing to make her his trophy wife, as he had learned was the way of life from Lord Henry, he convinces himself he is in love, that he has fallen and that romance triumphs all. This whirlwind, of course, was concluded by the first exhibition of his inability to separate his reality from that which was expected of him.

Lord Henry Wotton’s agressive disdain for womankind was a prevelant theme throughout:

“My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.” 

Influenced by such company, it is no wonder he thought Sibyl had something to prove, that her talents would and must win over his male counterparts. The embarassment he felt when she had not lived up to Lord Henry and Basil Hallward’s expectations ironically relfected the despair he was yet to experience when his very core did not live up to its relection.

“You used to stir my imagination, now you don’t even stir my curiosity…I loved you because you were marvellous, because you had genius and intellect, you realised the dreams of great poets and gave substance to the shadows of art…you have spoiled the romance of my life…without your art you are nothing…what are you now? A third rate actress with a pretty face.” -Dorian Gray

 

The conception of his brief affair with Sibyl, to me, symoblised Dorian flirting with the idea of rebelling against corruption. Marred by misrepresenting beauty for art, it became the final nail in the coffin for his humanity.

From then on, Wilde’s whimsical prose tells the tale of a man progressing through life enthralled in a state of selfish luxury. Through beautifully constructed dialogue, the hands of its moral compass jolt frantically in every direction as the desires of three, very different men play out, and Dorian glides in and out of his double life outwardly unscathed by his sins.

The book subtly paid homage to Wilde’s sexuality, most clearly to me through Basil Hallward’s infactuation with his muse. Oscar Wilde is quoted to have said:

“Basil Hayward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” – Oscar Wilde

I find it difficult, even after finishing the book, to judge what he could of meant by this in likening himself to these three contrasting characters.

Basil is a man morally reserved to his art, seldom weidling to human impulse. Lord Henry, a vindicitve purist, objectifys Dorian, moulding him into a social experiment for his own ammusement. Dorian becomes unashamedly obessed with pleasure of all forms – though evil as he may become, he is no-longer worried about being socially accepted.

Could it be that, in less dramatic terms, the three characters mirrored, in stages, the shift of acceptance that Wilde felt, and predicted to feel about embracing his own percieved ‘vice’.

To be Dorian is to be several things at once; on the outside he is beautiful and pure, on the inside he is evil and hideous. In body, he is a man who walks, talks, lives and breathes. In spirit he is a distorted reflection on decaying canvas.

 

 

The Guest of Summer

When cheeks rose from brash colds, no longer flustered,

the guest of summer feasts on warmer lands.

Through skies they sore until days’ meet nights,

over cities, seas and sands.

 

Proud breasted,

chest as white as snow.

Glossed in blue, curved winged;

feathers rustling, to-and-fro.

 

As seasons alter nature, colours change.

Shredding skin to let new life flourish.

The guest of summer takes flight once more,

in search of soil and young to nourish.

 

Retreating to familiar scenes;

homes built in woodlands,

open waters, and fields of green.

 

Cheek by jowl they nest in crooks and eaves,

what once were mountains,

now are buildings, tall as trees.

Forming nests from streams of mud and clay

strong in numbers, safe from prey.

 

A haven made for those soon to arrive,

shells crack; reveal a will to survive.

 

Waters grow colder, freeze over,

and the sun begins to die;

the new must fledge, spread their wings,

and take to the sky.

 

Once again, the guest of summer heads south.

Forever fearless, eager mouthed.

 

The one where they went to Cornwall, *about a million years ago…

In May this year Joe and I took a trip to St Ives in Cornwall. I’d just bought my new Canon 100D, so this was a great opportunity to get to grips with it and have a play.

May was ages ago, you say, why are you talking about it now?

WELL, due to laptop issues and my blatant lust for paying over the odds for incompetent and borderline criminal services,  I hadn’t been able to edit the footage I’d taken.

Now that I finally have my laptop back, 98 moons and 5 billion temper tantrums later, I’ve had a little time over the holidays to finish it up (as above), so I thought it would be nice to write a complementary post of what we got up to.


About Our Trip

Accommodation: Camping at Lower Penderleath Farm

Nestled away about 10 minutes drive from the centre of St Ives, or a 20 minute cycle as it was for us, Lower Penderleath provided breathtaking views and a serene nights sleep under the stars. Equipped with no thrills facilities, we had everything we needed to get away from it all – and for those who want to stay connected, there is access to charging points too. The camping spot was spacious and quiet; situated on old farm land, we were surrounded by fields and country lanes to stroll down.

Repurposed stables now house a decent block of showers, which were hot and clean, with nearby loos. Barbecue blocks were provided so you can cook where you camp, and there were two large fridges to make use of. If you’re camping savvy, you will find all the essentials are covered here. The site also boasts a hostel, though I would recommended getting stuck in and pitching up.

Bar the pig pen down the lane and the big old bull at the top of a nearby hill, the owner Russell is by far the main event here. Now, kooky isn’t quite the right word but he certainly is the kind of guy with a story for every occasion. Fascinating to listen too, he’ll be sat around a fire first thing until sun set; sipping on beers, cooking up jackets and soaking up the Cornish sun. Somewhat a household name with the locals, I found Russell to be a jack of all trades; he’s worked on a ranch in Canada, (essentially a real cowboy), has travelled the world, and apparently, so said our cab driver, once tried to bottle and sell the local spring water!

Brilliant to sit and have a chat with he had some great tips on how to make the most of our time in St Ives. If I went back to Cornwall, I wouldn’t think of staying anywhere else.


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St Ives bay

We packed quite a lot into our weekend away, from cycling into town (albeit a terrible idea, as Cornwall is really very hilly), to hanging out with the local livestock. I even managed to squeeze in a  daily Pizza, which alone is a simply unparalleled success in my eyes, even by the one off landmarks that surrounded me.


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Cream Tea at Penderleath Tea Room

We ate cream tea for breakfast, scarpered away from glutenous gulls on St Ives Bay and took a trip down to Lands End, which was foggy as hell and therefore eerily beautiful. Obviously we smashed back a pasty in Marazion before awing at St Michael’s Mount, wandering down cobbled streets and splashing around in rock pools. Although we didn’t catch a show, we took a peek at the famous Minack Theatre before strolling along its adjoining beach. I found this to be the most beautiful view and regret not being able to spend more time there.


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St Michael’s Mount, when you can travel by foot – which we didn’t…
Image copyright: Cornish Pilgramage

Things I wish I had known

Time your visit to Marazion so you can walk across the sea to the Mount! We didn’t consider this before our trip, and so ended up parking quite a distance from the beach. We hadn’t purchased enough parking to wait for the tide to go out, and thought it pointless to add more to come back again, so we viewed from afar. Absolute schoolboy error, and easily avoidable if, unlike us, you do your homework!

Cornwall is not a haven for leisure cyclists. There are hills for days and you will get very sweaty. That being said, what goes up must come down, and bombing down giant hills until you see the sea was fun, so it’s all relative.


We had a lot of fun exploring, and found three nights a good amount time to see what this part of Cornwall had to offer. By recommendation of a local we swerved Penzance, but perhaps would pay it a visit next time should the opportunity present itself.

Planning a visit to Cornwall in 2017? Did something great we missed out of our trip?

Let me know in the comments 🙂

St Ives, Cornwall. from RJMedits on Vimeo.

Beyond the wall

This weeks module for my Writing for Young Readers course covered genre, form and audience. It touched upon the types of genres specific audience groups prefer, their understanding of language, and how to tailor my writing to cater for each reading level. The assignment that followed required me to choose a genre, form and audience and write up to 500 words on a subject of my choice.

Initially I decided to write a poem for 6-8 years. In the interest of complete transparency, I only chose this based on the amount of effort I thought I would have to put in. I’m quite good at writing poems for comical purposes, so I figured I would be able to knock one up in no time. Little did I know my ignorant laziness would present me with a lesson to be learned. Writing for this age is not an easy feat, especially when you have nothing to draw reference upon. I don’t ever spend time with any children of this age, so I’m massively out of touch with their level of understanding, even after completing this module. I just don’t know what they’re in to. I tried to think back to when I was of that age, but I simply couldn’t remember. Groovy Chick, Goosebumps and Tammy Girl is all I could think of, and even then, was that more 12+. Who knows? Was everything I came up with patronising? Probably.

So I bailed. I’m going to have to let that idea settle while I learn more about this age group. I’ll be doing some market research, so if anyone has suggestions on books to read for this audience then please let me know in the comments.

Instead the end product was something that came to me this morning. The book I’m reading at the moment is called ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ by  M. R. Carey, which provided some inspiration into the premise of the idea for my story. It’s the idea of being trapped somewhere, knowing your a little different from everyone else around but not really understanding why. I wrote this with the intention that it would be an adventure story for the 9-12 age bracket. I haven’t had any feedback from my course yet, so I don’t know if I’ve hit the marker in terms of getting the language  and sentence structure right for this age. I would love to hear if anyone has any feedback 🙂

Beyond the Wall

Kate had never been on the other side of the wall before, though she’d always wanted to. The boys in her class had said they jumped over once, but she didn’t believe them. They also said that girls weren’t able to climb walls like can boys, so that’s how she knows they are liars. Kate’s a very good climber. Good enough to beat Billy over the wall, that’s for sure. The boys at school are always saying stuff like that. Girls can’t do this, girls can’t do that. Billy once told Kate that no girl could ever become an explorer, or an adventurer. “Girls have to stay on the base, it’s too dangerous for them outside” he would say, but that only made Kate want to do it even more.

That is where Kate and her family live, at a place called the ‘base’. Surrounded by walls as tall as buildings it’s guarded by men with helmets and guns. There is a supermarket and a swimming pool, and their school is on base too, so the women and children never get to leave. Everybody who lives on the base has a dad or husband in the army. Her dad is a solider, so she doesn’t see him very often. He goes away for months at a time, but they spend lots of time together when he comes back. Kate’s dad said she can do anything if she puts her mind to it, and that she believes.

One Friday at school, Billy and the boys were giving Kate a really tough time. In class they were all learning about the Pacific Ocean. Miss Mulberry told a story about a lady called Sharon Sites Adams, who was the first women to sail across the Pacific all on her own back in the 60’s. It was the coolest thing Kate had ever heard. “Miss, when I go to Secondary School, will I learn how to sail like Mrs Adams did?” Kate said. Before Miss Mulberry could reply, the boys burst into laughter. “Ha, in your dreams” said Billy. “There’s no Ocean on base, and you know you’re never leaving” he scoffed. Leaning backwards into the heels of his chair, he reached his hand out to Danny, who gave him a low high-five under the table.

When the whistle blew Kate collected her bags and ran straight through the halls and out of school. Red with anger, she didn’t stop running until finally she made it to the wall at the edge of the base. She stood for a minute, starring at the patterns in the cement. Shutting her eyes she wished she had the courage to make it over that wall. Imagining what it would be like on the other side she squeezed her eyes tightly to fight back the tears. All of a sudden Kate began to feel strange. Slowly opening her eyes, she could see fields of green all around her.  She was beyond the wall.

You, a grown adult, are afraid of the dark. Explain why this is a legitimate concern, so friends won’t laugh at you.

The great unknown, more often than not, is far less wondrous than it is portrayed to be in books, and in films. Take the ocean as an example; vast masses of water suffocating the earths surface, home to bloodthirsty beasts and uncertainty.

Manipulated by the elements it sends lashings of waves that cause chaos and destruction. Tearing down ships and homes, claiming land and lives it does not own. I find it bizarre to romantacise such a thing.

It’s like this, picture you’re treading water a quarter of a mile offshore when suddenly a wave washes over you, taking you under. You resist, but it’s stronger than you and that’s something you can’t control. Each movement you take to fight against the current draws the breath from your lungs, rendering you powerless. You can’t scream underwater. No one can hear your cries for help. What’s next from there is unknown to you. All you can be sure of is that there will be darkness. That’s how I feel when darkness consumes me, like I’m drowning in the unknown.

It’s like driving into the night on a path lined with broken street lamps, unaware of the road ahead of you. You could be driving off the edge of a cliff for all you’re sure of. Or walking through a deserted park when the sun has set, no stars from which to seek relief; no light to guide your way. Though situations may differ, what the darkness imposes, what it takes from you, remains the same.

I oppose not only what it does to the senses, but what it does to the mind. The places it can take you, past, present or even future. The unknown; it’s where anxiety lives, where fear culminates. It darkness, it is drowning, it consumes.

To me, the dark and the depths of the ocean are one in the same. When you’re draped in darkness, you could be anywhere, no matter if it’s in your mind or not, for you can’t see any different. Be it the bottom of the sea or the edge of a cliff, these places they feed on vulnerability, and you’re never more vulnerable than when immersed in darkness.

Think of your greatest fear, how would that scene play out? Where did it take you? Did it end darkness? It always does.

Now all that considered, do you blame me?

Prompt #4: You, a grown adult, are afraid of the dark. Explain why this is a legitimate concern, so friends won’t laugh at you.

 

The Assembly

For the last two weeks I’ve been serving my queen and country, making the streets a safer place for  your children to live in and listening to middle class white men in wigs droning on, all in the name of jury duty. Naturally I’ve had a lot of waiting around to do. When in limbo, I began to pen my observations; not about my case as i’m sure you know the first rule of jury duty is…..but my thoughts on the whole process, and mainly, the behaviors of people within it.

 

If there is one thing you learn from being locked in a room with over one hundred,very varied members of society, it’s that human are animals. I mean so in regards to our instincts, and needs.

In the same way a cat stretches out its chin in search of a stroke of validation, humans allow unsolicited vulnerability to consume them, until they bear all to make them appear just the opposite.Not that it is always that deep, of course, yet for the most part I felt and saw an underlying theme of people craving acceptance, in one way or another.

A good place to start on such a quest is common ground; we all stand on it, but it’s never beneath us in the game of passing time and making friends. “My son is starting university next week….Dave’s in his second year down in Bournemouth…daughters getting married in the spring….oh, I got my hat from there for my Simon’s…..can’t stand this place, what’s with all the waiting around?…bloody joke this is……..yeah, Henry Fonda. What’s it called?…12 angry men….lunch?”.

Magnitised by social class, groups crowd around circular tables sipping instant coffee and groaning in unison. The term opposites attract gets thrown around a lot, but in this case that’s an unfulfilled prophecy.  Two men,of a similar age and build, both in burgundy t-shirts and faded jeans, are engaged in conversation. They hit it off over an agreement of minds, too boring for me to remember exactly what, though it happened moments ago. The conversation flows; drier than a towel washed without softener and left out in the sun to crisp, but relentless all the same.

The person in the room talking the loudest is often the one with the least to say. On this occasion a women; loud and liberal, acting as a platform for others to spark conversation. That way she doesn’t have to say too much, but is still emitting an air of  importance. The business men and women in suits sit alone in the corners of the room, arched over laptops. Their bony fingers frantically forming emails; the fruits of which they hope will line their pockets. Phones to flesh, they pace sporadically. Umming and eering, yes this, no that.

Wondering how long i’ll be here, just like everyone else, I drop a coin in the honesty box and make myself a tea. The sink is making a loud, continuous chugging noise,  like the gargling of a possessed infant. The women beside me laughs, and as I meet her gaze I smile. I’m not sure either of us find it funny, but we’re obliged by social graces. I scuttle back to my seat, looking at the floor to avoid any further eye contact. I’ve done well not to engage in small talk thus far, I don’t want to ruin it now.

The speakers crackle to a start, bringing much desired news. “The Jurors for court eight, due to further delays you are permitted to leave the building for a cigarette or some fresh air. Please be back and signed in with me in 20 minutes”. A dull cheer echoed around the room. Now is when the self-categorisation becomes obsolete, for everyone has their vices.

Prowling to the exit like a herd to water, they acknowledge this commonality they share, pleased that they’re not the only ones. Moaning once more, between puffs and breaths, they talk, tiny words, until conversations dwindle. As the cherry meets its end, a sense of relief washes over them  and they retreat back to their comfortable groupings in the assembly.

 

 

Write a poem about a tomato

 

What you are, I can’t decide;

Your very core, concealed inside,

Skin so thick, as nature made so;

Where do you fit? Not even you know.

Your seed bears life, yet instead it is savoured;

Bound by ties and restraints? Consider them wavered.

For why tick the box, when there are circles and stars?

Just as boys play with dolls, girls like guitars.

No bother then, if you are fruit or foe;

You taste good to me, and that’s all there is to know.

 

tomato-heart.jpgPrompt #3: Write a poem about a tomato