Sarah's Reviews > A Single Man

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
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Feb 02, 10

Read from January 31 to February 02, 2010

I read about the film A Single Man in the New York Times; the review was very favorable. The movie is based on a novel of the same title, and since the reviewer called the novel "a foundational text in modern gay literature," I decided to read it. I don't have a lot of previous experience with Christopher Isherwood's work, other than Berlin Stories, which was, of course, the basis for the film Cabaret. I found the novel A Single Man incredibly beautiful, somewhat heart-breaking. The novel spans twenty-four hours in the life of a British gay college professor living in L.A., who is mourning the loss of his partner of sixteen years. It was such a pleasure that I'm looking forward to seeing the movie (when it comes out on DVD).

Here is my favorite moment:
He crosses the front room, which he calls his study, and comes down the staircase. The stairs turn a corner; they are narrow and steep. You can touch both handrails with your elbows, and you have to bend your head, even if, like George, you are only five eight. This is a tightly planned little house. He often feels protected by its smallness; there is hardly room enough here to feel lonely.

Nevertheless . . .

Think of two people, living together day after day, year after year, in this small space, standing elbow to elbow cooking at the same small stove, squeezing past each other on the narrow stairs, shaving in front of the same small bathroom mirror, constantly jogging, jostling, bumping against each each other's bodies by mistake or on purpose, sensually, aggressively, awkwardly, impatiently, in rage or in love--think what deep though invisible tracks they must leave, everywhere, behind them! The doorway into the kitchen has been built too narrow. Two people in a hurry, with plates of food in their hands, are apt to keep colliding here. And it is here, nearly every morning, that George, having reached the bottom of the stairs, has this sensation of suddenly finding himself on an abrupt, brutally broken off, jagged edge-- as though the track had disappeared down a landslide. It is here that he stops short and knows, with a sick newness, almost as though it were for the first time: Jim is dead. Is dead.
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message 1: by Ron (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ron Nice! This is also the bit that I loved the most!


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