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A Single Man A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
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A Single Man Quotes (showing 1-30 of 72)
“A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity. When for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. It’s as though it had all just come into existence.
I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“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 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!”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“But now isn’t simply now. Now is also a cold reminder: one whole day later than yesterday, one year later than last year. Every now is labeled with its date, rendering all past nows obsolete, until — later of sooner — perhaps — no, not perhaps — quite certainly: it will come.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Waking up begins with saying am and now. That which has awoken then lies for a while staring up at the ceiling and down into itself until it has recognized I, and therefrom deduced I am, I am now. Here comes next, and is at least negatively reassuring; because here, this morning, is where it has expected to find itself: what’s called at home.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Fear, after all, is our real enemy. Fear is taking over our world. Fear is being used as a tool of manipulation in our society. Itʼs how politicians peddle policy and how Madison Avenue sells us things that we donʼt need. Think about it. Fear that weʼre going to be attacked, fear that there are communists lurking around every corner, fear that some little Caribbean country that doesnʼt believe in our way of life poses a threat to us. Fear that black culture may take over the world. Fear of Elvis Presleyʼs hips. Well, maybe that one is a real fear. Fear that our bad breath might ruin our friendships… Fear of growing old and being alone.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“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.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“George smiles to himself, with entire self-satisfaction. Yes, I am crazy, he thinks. That is my secret; my strength.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“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.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Now, for example, people with freckles aren’t thought of as a minority by the nonfreckled. They aren’t a minority in the sense we’re talking about. And why aren’t they? Because a minority is only thought of as a minority when it constitutes some kind of a threat to the majority, real or imaginary. And no threat is ever quite imaginary. Anyone here disagree with that? If you do, just ask yourself, What would this particular minority do if it suddenly became the majority overnight? You see what I mean? Well, if you don’t – think it over!
“All right. Now along come the liberals – including everybody in this room, I trust – and they say, ‘Minorities are just people, like us.’ Sure, minorities are people – people, not angels. Sure, they’re like us – but not exactly like us; that’s the all-too- familiar state of liberal hysteria in which you begin to kid yourself you honestly cannot see any difference between a Negro and a Swede….” (Why, oh why daren’t George say “between Estelle Oxford and Buddy Sorensen”? Maybe, if he did dare, there would be a great atomic blast of laughter, and everybody would embrace, and the kingdom of heaven would begin, right here in classroom. But then again, maybe it wouldn’t.)
“So, let’s face it, minorities are people who probably look and act and – think differently from us and hay faults we don’t have. We may dislike the way they look and act, and we may hate their faults. And it’s better if we admit to disliking and hating them than if we try to smear our feelings over with pseudo liberal sentimentality. If we’re frank about our feelings, we have a safety valve; and if we have a safety valve, we’re actually less likely to start persecuting. I know that theory is unfashionable nowadays. We all keep trying to believe that if we ignore something long enough it’ll just vanish….
“Where was I? Oh yes. Well, now, suppose this minority does get persecuted, never mind why – political, economic, psychological reasons. There always is a reason, no matter how wrong it is – that’s my point. And, of course, persecution itself is always wrong; I’m sure we all agree there. But the worst of it is, we now run into another liberal heresy. Because the persecuting majority is vile, says the liberal, therefore the persecuted minority must be stainlessly pure. Can’t you see what nonsense that is? What’s to prevent the bad from being persecuted by the worse? Did all the Christian victims in the arena have to be saints?
“And I’ll tell you something else. 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…”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“What’s so phony nowadays is all this familiarity. Pretending there isn’t any difference between people —well, like you were saying about minorities, this morning. If you and I are no different, what do we have to give each other? How can we ever be friends?”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“But your book is wrong, Mrs. Strunk, says George, when it tells you that Jim is the substitute I found for a real son, a real kid brother, a real husband, a real wife. Jim wasn't a substitute for anything. And there is no substitute for Jim, if you'll forgive my saying so, anywhere.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
tags: gay, love
“You see, Kenny, there are some things you don't even know you know, until you're asked.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“If it’s going to be a world with no time for sentiment, it’s not a world that I want to live in.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“The past is just something that's over.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“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, acording to his mood. He misuses them quite ruthlessly - despite the respectful way he has to talk about them in public - to put him to bed, 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.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“The prefect 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.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“As they embrace, she kisses him full on the mouth. And suddenly sticks her tongue right in. She has done this before, often. It’s one of those drunken long shots which just might, at least theoretically, once in ten thousand tries, throw a relationship right out of its orbit and send it whizzing off on another. Do women ever stop trying? No. But, because they never stop, they learn to be good losers.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“What it sees there isn't so much a face as the expression of a predicament.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“They keep telling you, when you’re older, you’ll have experience—and that’s supposed to be so great. What would you say about that, sir? Is it really any use, would you say?"

"What kind of experience?”

“Well—places you’ve been to, people you’ve met. Situations you’ve been through already, so you know how to handle them when they come up again. All that stuff that’s supposed to make you wise, in your later years.”

“Let me tell you something, Kenny. 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 sillier—and that’s a fact.”

“No kidding, sir? You can’t mean that! You mean, sillier than when you were young?”

“Much, much sillier.”

“I’ll be darned. Then experience is no use at all? You’re saying it might just as well not have happened?”

“No. I’m not saying that. I only mean, you can’t use it. But if you don’t try to—if you just realize it’s there and you’ve got it—then it can be kind of marvelous.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Someone has to ask you a question," George continues meaningly, "before you can answer it. But it's so seldom you find anyone who'll ask the right questions. Most people aren't that much interested....”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“The talk of pale, burning-eyed students, anarchists and utopians all, over tea and cigarettes in a locked room long past midnight, is next morning translated, with the literalness of utter innocence, into the throwing of the bomb, the shouting of the proud slogan, the dragging away of the young dreamer-doer, still smiling, to the dungeon and the firing squad.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“No one ever hates without a cause....”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“I am alive, he says to himself, I am alive! And life energy surges hotly through him, and delight, and appetite. How good to be in a body - even this old beat-up carcass - that still has warm blood and live semen and rich marrow and wholesome flesh!”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Oh, Kenneth, Kenneth, believe me - there's nothing I'd rather do! I want like hell to tell you. But I can't. I quite literally can't. Because, don't you see, what I know is what I am? And I can't tell you that. You have to find it out for yourself. I'm like a book you have to read. A book can't read itself to you. It doesn't even know what it's about. I don't know what I'm about.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face - the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man - all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us - we have died - what is there to be afraid of?

It answers them: But that happened so gradually, so easily. I'm afraid of being rushed.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“I certainly should have,' he agrees, smiling and thinking what an absurd and universally-accepted bit of nonsense it is, that your best friends must necessarily be the ones who best understand you. As if there weren't far too much understanding in the world already; above all, that understanding between lovers, celebrated in song and story, which is actually such torture that no two of them can bear it without frequent separations or fights.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“Lois and Alexander are by far the most beautiful creatures in the class; their beauty is like the beauty of plants, seemingly untroubled by vanity, anxiety or effort.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“In ten minutes they will have arrived on campus. George will have to be George; the George they have named and will recognise. So now he consciously applies himself to thinking their thoughts, getting into their mood. With the skill of a veteran, he rapidly puts on the psychological makeup for this role he must play.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“For a few minutes, maybe, life lingers in the tissues of some outlying regions of the body. Then, one by one, the lights go out and there is total blackness. And if some part of the non-entity we called George has indeed been absent at this moment of terminal shock, away out there on the deep water, then it will return to find itself homeless.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
“The Nazis were not right to hate the Jews. But their hating of Jews was not without a cause. No one ever hates without a cause.”
Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man

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