George feels flattered and excited…
He can’t resist slipping into the role Kenny so temptingly offers him.
Title: A Single Man
Author: Christopher Isherwood
First Published: 1963
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars (average rating on Goodreads: 4.12)
Format: Paperback, 152 pages
I would recommend this book to: anyone who appreciates excellent writing.
The Beginning: Waking up begins with saying am and now.
A while ago, I had a reading crisis: everything I read was OK, but nothing more. I turned to the modern classics for help. I started with Isherwood, and was immediately cured! A Single Man is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s poetic, thought provoking and heart breaking. I read most of it in Paris, and it was a wonderful companion!
The perfect evening…lying down on the couch beside the bookcase and reading himself sleepy…Jim lying opposite him at the other end of the couch, also reading; the two of them absorbed in their books yet so completely aware of each other’s presence.
There is no substitute for Jim.
I’ve seen and loved the movie twice, and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the novel, knowing the story so well. I had nothing to worry about. The parts I remembered almost word for word welcomed me back, adding a poetic dimension, stabbing my heart even deeper than the movie did. And then there were the wonderful little surprises, the parts that weren’t in the movie and the small alterations.
For other people, I can’t speak – but, personally, I haven’t gotten wise on anything. Certainly, I’ve been through this and that; and when it happens again, I say to myself, Here it is again. But that doesn’t seem to help me. In my opinion, I, personally, have gotten steadily sillier and sillier – and that’s a fact.
To the naked eye, the story is very simple and perhaps even ordinary. A man, George, loved and lost. It’s as simple as that. We follow him on an ordinary day. Nothing much happens. It’s more a state of mind, a life lived, love lost. There’s nothing special about what happens and the feelings described are feelings that most people will eventually go through at some point in their life. It may seem ordinary, yet it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.
But to say, I won’t eat alone tonight; isn’t that deadly dangerous? Isn’t it the start of a long landslide – from eating at counters and drinking at bars to drinking at home without eating, to despair and sleeping pills and the inevitable overdose? But who says I have to be brave?
What makes the book so unique is that, even though it’s an easy read, every page is poetic and clever. I don’t think I’ve ever made that many dog ears in a book! There were just so many passages I didn’t want to disappear.
These books have not made George nobler or better or more truly wise. It is just that he likes listening to their voices, the one or the other, according to his mood. He misuses them quite ruthlessly – despite the respectful way he has to talk about them in public – to put him to sleep, to take his mind off the hands of the clock, to relax the nagging of his pyloric spasm, to gossip him out of his melancholy, to trigger the conditioned reflexes of his colon.
…A minority has its own kind of aggression. It absolutely dares the majority to attack it. It hates the majority – not without a cause, I grant you. It even hates the other minorities – because all minorities are in competition; each one proclaims that its sufferings are the worst and its wrongs are the blackest. And the more they all hate, and the more they’re all persecuted, the nastier they become! Do you think it makes people nasty to be loved? You know it doesn’t! Then why should it make them nice to be loathed? While you’re being persecuted, you hate what’s happening to you, you hate the people who are making it happen; you’re in a world of hate. Why, you wouldn’t recognize love if you met it! You’d suspect love! You’d think there was something behind it—some motive—some trick.
I can understand why this book isn’t for some. But to me, it was a perfect 5-star read: it touched my heart and I will never forget it.