Genre: Fiction; Author: Will Self

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A famous artist named Basil Hallward introduces a pleasure-seeking aristocrat to a very pretty young fellow named Dorian Gray. Though Dorian gets into some dissolute business, only Basil’s portrait of him grows worse for wear. Self’s synthetic ”imitation” of the Oscar Wilde novel transposes this story to the 20th century: A video installation replaces the original’s painting; Princess Di appears; and we get outrageous scenes of sex, drugs, and unprotected sex while on intravenous drugs, as Self reworks the story for the age of AIDS. One could call such silliness about a disease immoral, but, as Wilde wrote, ”There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.” Guess which type this is?

Originally posted January 24 2003 — 12:00 AM EST

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