The New York Times Book Review has praised Will Self as a "high-powered satirical weapon" and an "alpha male in the British literary hierarchy." Now he confirms his place among our most important writers by offering a stunning reimagination of the most shocking novel of its time. Summer, 1981. It is an age when appearances matter more and more. Only the shallowest people won't judge by them. Henry Wotton, gay, drug-addicted, and husband of Batface, the irrefutably aristocratic daughter of the Duke of This or That, is at the center of a clique dedicated to dissolution. His friend Baz Hallward, an artist, has discovered a young man who is the very epitome of male beauty -- Dorian Gray. His installation, Cathode Narcissus, captures all of Dorian's allure and, perhaps, something else. After a night of debauchery that climaxes in a veritable conga line of buggery, Wotton and Hallward are caught in the hideous web of a retrovirus that becomes synonymous with the decade. Sixteen years later the Royal Broodmare, as Wotton has dubbed her, lies dying in a Parisian underpass. But what of Wotton and Hallward? How have they fared as stocks soar and T-cell counts plummet? And what of Dorian? How is it that he remains so youthful while all around him shrivel and die? Set against the AIDS epidemic of the eighties and nineties, Will Self's Dorian is a shameless reworking of our most significant myth of shamelessness, brilliantly evoking the decade in which it was fine to stare into the abyss, so long as you were wearing two pairs of Ray-Bans.
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Will Self is also the author of The Quantity Theory of Insanity, My Idea of Fun, Cock & Bull, Grey Area, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis, Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, and Great Apes. He lives in London.
John Lee has spent 30 years guiding lives and relationships through addiction, recovery, emotional ruin, rage, grief, and desperation, and into new strength, hope, functionality and fulfillment. He wrote the bestseller The Flying Boy, as well as twenty other books, and he has been featured on Oprah, 20/20, Barbara Walter's The View, CNN, PBS, and NPR. He has been interviewed by Newsweek, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and dozens of other national magazines and radio talk shows. John earned his master's degree at the University of Alabama, where he taught English and American Studies. At the University of Texas, he worked on his doctorate and taught Religious Studies and Humanities at Austin Community College. He is founder and former director of the Austin Men's Center where he ran men's groups and sessions for individuals and couples. Along with poet Robert Bly and others, John became a recognized leader in the Men's Movement and an early pioneer in the field of recovery and addictions―he has keynoted hundreds of clinical conferences around the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.
In this retelling of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, most of the original's characters are cleverly transmuted into their late-20th-century counterparts: dissolute Henry Wotton, now openly homosexual with a nasty heroin habit; his protege, eager young video artist "Baz" Hallward; and the title character, the quintessential amoral narcissist and a "seducer par excellence" (of men and, occasionally, women). In the summer of 1981, Hallward captures Gray's youth and beauty in a video installation that he titles "Cathode Narcissus." He and Wotton take Gray under their wing and school him in the ways of profligate London living, early '80s-style. By 1997, all three are HIV-positive, though Dorian, of course, shows no sign of illness. Self uses Wilde's plot to examine post-Stonewall gay life, from its drug-fueled hedonistic excesses to the reckoning of the AIDS epidemic. The novel skewers every layer of British society-street hustlers, members of Parliament and the idle rich. Real-life figures also appear, most notably the "princess of bulimia," Diana Spencer. The prose is laced with epigrammatic, lightly amusing pseudo-Wildean wit ("I want my sins to be like sushi-fresh, small and entirely raw," says Wotton), but its wordplay and evocation of debauchery also owe something to Evelyn Waugh and Martin Amis (channeling Hunter Thompson and Irvine Welsh). Self's mannered prose can grow tedious, and there's hardly a sympathetic character to be found, but the writer has undertaken-and largely succeeded in pulling off-a daring act of literary homage.
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