“The most significant way in which Self’s book differs from its predecessor is in its very freedom and frankness. . . . There’s no denying Self’s novel’s cleverness, best displayed in its neatly postmodern ending Sophie Harrison, The New York Times Book Review
978-0-8021-4047-0 • $12.00 • Paperback • Feb. 2004
Set against the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s, Will Self’s Dorian is a shameless reworking of our most significant myth of shamelessness. It is the summer of 1981 and Henry Wotton, uneasily gay, egregiously drug addicted, and queasily snobbish, is at the center of a Chelsea clique dedicated to timeless dissolution. His friend Baz Hallward, a sometime Warhol acolyte and video installation artist, has discovered a most remarkable young man, the very epitome of male beauty, Dorian Gray. Hallward’s installation, “Cathode Narcissus,” captures all of Dorian’s allure, but perhaps it’s captured another more integral part of him as well?
Certainly, after a night of debauchery that climaxes in a veritable conga line of buggery, Wotton and Hallward have been snared by a sinister retrovirus that becomes synonymous with the decade. After sixteen years of delirious drug taking and ruthless fornication, their playmates have succumbed to the disease de jour. But what of Wotton and Hallward? How have they fared as the stock market soared and their T-cell counts plummeted? And what of Dorian, a sultan of style in an era of mass superficiality? while all around him shrivel and die, how is it that he remains so unsulliedso vibrantly alive?
By one of our most wildly imaginative novelistswho has been praised by The New York Times Book Review as a “high powered satirical weapon”Dorian brilliantly evokes the decade in which it was fine to stare into the abyss, so long as you were wearing two pairs of Ray-Bans.