Dorian – Will Self

DIn the summer of 1981, aristocratic, drug-addicted Henry Wooten and Warhol-acolyte Baz Hallward meet Dorian Gray. Dorian is a golden adonis – perfect, pure and (so far) deliciously uncorrupted. The subject of Baz’s video installation, Cathode Narcissus, and the object of Henry’s attentions, Dorian is launched on a hedonistic binge that spans the ’80s and ’90s.

This is a clever retelling and updating into a world of drugs and AIDS, of Wilde’s story.

The 1980s gay scene is captured well, with its pre-AIDS sense of liberation – orgies, ‘damp bath houses and fetid gyms, the bloody meat racks and the shitty cottages…Dorian penetrated the sphincter of darkness…pissed on a naked performer in a bathtub..odour of faeces and semen and poppers…thwack off flesh on flesh…’

Then comes this new disease thought to be caused by using poppers. Later comes the Labour landslide and Diana.

Diana and Dorian became the celeb. icons of their day.

Many of us know decadent queens like Wooten, who mentors Grey, remembers being buggered by father and how he felt remote from it, as if watching from the ceiling. He’d rather his servants stole from him than pay them. He doesn’t always wear an AIDS lapel as it doesn’t always go with what he is wearing. He is a snob who asks: ‘Minneapolis?  Do they have art there?’ He quips: ‘Monogamy is to love as ideology is to thought; both are failures in imagination.’ He ends up bribing the medical staff to bring him drugs when he is in hospital with AIDS

Henry Wotton’s neighbour, the “jiggling man” metes out the seconds of physical time for Wotton’s existence.

Dorian is described as ‘completely vapid as well as murderous. A ludicrous, narcissistic pretty boy, with nothing on his mind but sex and sadism […], selfish and egotistical” About the disconnect between sex and relationships he says: ‘Helen I masturbate but it doesn’t mean I’m in love with my hand.’ There’s a nasty description of Dorian’s penis as ‘curved, red and gnarled with veins like the dagger of an alien warlord’

What is real? Is there a conspiracy feeding us with images of that which is really unreal?: his theory on the Gulf War to Hester Wharton, another of the guests at the Wottons’: “Of course”, he drawled,” the Gulf war never really happened…” “What the hell d’you mean? ”[…]“I mean that the Gulf War didn’t happen”. Dorian held up his hand s and began telling off the fictions on his manicured fingers. “There was no invasion of Kuwait, No tense standoff,  no coalition– building, no Scuds falling on Tel Aviv, no bombs smartly singling out Ba’athist apparatchiks in Baghdad, no refugees on the Jordanian border, no Republican guards buried on the Basra road, no Schwarzkopf, no dummkops, no tortured RAF pilots, no victory, none of it. No Gulf War. Can I make myself clearer?”  He goes on to ask if anyone knows someone who’s actually been killed or lost a lived one.

Amusing phrases include: More gays in audience than on stage at opera. Philanthropy as an ‘act’ is a cynical view. Smart enough to read theology yet perceptive enough to read tea leaves. Modern furniture looked as comfortable as a colonoscopy. Fixing coke – all human striving is here – measured out in millilitres. ‘You’re all delicate flowers, aren’t you, boys. The whole death thing shakes you up so, and that nasty moral majority saying it was all your own minority fault.  That it was all that rimming and writhing and buggering you did, which upset sweet Jesus and his sour daddy.  Now he’s not going to let you sit on his right hand so he can slip a finger in.’  ‘You homosexuals are only the vanguard of a mutton army dressed as lambs.’ Taking off condom and pouring it in. ‘as if Cologne Cathedral was being shoved up my fundament’ (Jung in reverse) ‘Conceptual art has degenerated to the level of crude autobiography, a global-village sale of shoddy, personal memorabilia for which video installations are the TV. ‘why am I always up at the dawn of crack?’ I wonder if the Royal Academy gift shop is doing special offers on bottled piss, canned shit and vacuum-packed blood.’

The inclusion of Jeremy magazine is a blast from the past.

There’s a surprising ending

That there is a naked man on the cover meant that one of our members felt unable to read it on the bus.

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