Pictures & Portraits

I’ve just begun reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, somehow having missed reading it when working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, just a few years ago.  They say timing is everything, and as I’ve written before, I believe in my first blog post, I always seem to find some connection or timely aspect to my life while reading anything, really.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is no exception. I picked up this book in the fiction section of the Cherry Hill library, while walking toward Science Fiction/Fantasy for a few books for my husband. I had recently thought I’d want to read this, although, I don’t recall now what had sparked the interest.  This morning, I started the book, having just finished reading and loving Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses from 1995.  From what counts as our own library, I found Senses on the “To Read” shelf, although I don’t know from where it came.  Perhaps the woman, Linda, from whom we bought our house and some of her own library six years ago next week.

Almost one year ago, we were in Ireland but our focus was on James Joyce’s legacy, not so much Oscar Wilde.  We were in Dublin exactly one week after the annual Bloomsday celebration of June 16 and all things Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Ulysses, 1922. Yet, I don’t recall searching for Oscar Wilde-known pubs while there, as we did to meet up with my long-time friend (7th grade pen-pal) and his family at Davy Byrnes, one of a few frequented pubs of Joyce while at Trinity College in Dublin.

And, while twice in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, I don’t recall looking for Wilde’s grave site, but I do remember looking for Gertrude Stein’s and Jim Morrison’s and finding Chopin’s.  Joyce, himself, is buried in Switzerland and was influenced by Wilde, although Wilde might repeat, “There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray.  All influence is immoral…”   As The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel of aesthetics (among other concepts), also, too, is Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist.  

This year, as I prepare for an extended trip abroad ~ although neither Paris nor Dublin appear in the itinerary ~ I ponder the pictures I would normally post on Facebook.  It seems that I have primarily used Facebook for travel pictures on past trips.  And, since I had once or twice made the apparent social media mistake of posting political or topical comments, beliefs, or trends and was met with an unsatisfactory response rate, trip pix were safer.  Perhaps Facebook is not the place for let’s make the world a better place information, but instead for the simple information of one’s constant whereabouts and the photographs that accompany such a trip, duration not-designated.

However, similar to the artist’s point of view in Dorian Gray, “When I leave town now, I never tell my people where I am going.  If I did, I would lose all my pleasure.  It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one’s life…” I consider the connection to my recent thoughts regarding my posting practices.  As I wrote above, I picked up The Portrait of Dorian Gray at the library.  It is, in fact, a Barnes & Noble Classics book, and it appears to have possibly been donated to the library, as there are underlined marks and notes in the margin.  Made by whom, I don’t know.  Page six:  in reaction to having read, “The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it,” the unknown prior reader has written “is romance opposite of transparency?”  Are our lives becoming less romantic with every social media site post?

“…we have invented a realism that is vulgar, an identity that is void.”

I have a friend who recently told me that she doesn’t go onto Facebook, because she doesn’t want to see everyone’s vacation photos when she hasn’t left the state of New Jersey in over ten years.  I see this friend once a month at book club (our next book is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  Dorian Gray is an ambitious addition to my monthly read).

I thought about what my friend said, and I respect her view.  We know our friends in how we relate to them on a personal level.  Face to face, vs. Facebook.  So, what becomes a public picture of the persona is defined by what we post.  A persona with a curated life, carefully created by ourselves in how we choose to post the parts of our lives that we really only wish to become public.  Have our relationships with friends become more complex – the dividing line resting somewhere between the physically social and social media?  Do we need to weed out the excesses of the public persona to find the person we know in private?

In line with transparency and in keeping it 100, I have often thought about posting a picture of myself as I clean the bathroom – gloved hand deep in the toilet bowl scrubbing with a machine washable, reusable wipe because ew – toilet bowl cleaners just spread the filth around everywhere those bristles touch.  And often, other random potential postings come to mind, those of which if the audience were anonymous, I might actually follow through with ‘send.’  For example, a selfie of doing sit-ups on the kitchen counter, captioned, “they tell me abs are made in the kitchen.”  Silly, moments of thought – funny quips and photos of chance throughout the day caught between the serious moments of life.

So, who to tell?  With whom to share?  I wonder if the ability to send a thought out into the great void has reduced spontaneity and wit within our close, personal relationships.  As I debate the pros and cons of posting, this time while I am away (whether it be on Facebook or maybe Instagram), I am aware that what my public persona posts is forever out there.

They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.    ~ Oscar Wilde





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Writing by Marnie Mitchell-Lister

DoubleU = W


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