A Single Man

Thoughts   A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, University of Minnesota Press 2001 (orig 1964), 186 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:   Purchased for The Bookies’ selection for April (my in-real-life book club — discussion 4/15.)

It was my turn to suggest.    I had too many to offer* and we all voted by ranking our choices; this book won.  I love book-to-movie adaptions and cannot wait to see this flick starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore – it is supposed to be artistically visually astonishing.    Maybe that’s a bit strong but it is captures my excitement to see what fashion-designer-turned-film-director Tom Ford has done with the story.    However, I screwed up!   The movie has yet to be released to DVD so The Bookies will not be coming to my house for movie-viewing;  we’ll be at the pub again per usual.

Before I share my thoughts, do know that I was heavily influenced to the positive by the reviews I found (thank you Fyrefly!) – I encourage you to check these out:

Asylym’s review – “…Isherwood’s “masterpiece”, a claim for once not overstated.”

Savidge Reads – “For such a small book it is brimming with ideas, emotions, and people and actually took me a while to read at there is so much to take in. It’s utterly remarkable.”

A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook – “…very stream-of-conscious with surgical precision and unsentimentality.

Book Maven’s Blog – “…achingly poetic…”

Paperback Reader – “A tender and stark evocation of grief, A Single Man is also exceptionally perceptive.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    A day in the life of an early 60’s English Literature professor who lives in California.    He believes he is only playing a part;  the role of his former self — a lie, an empty life, a shell of man not quite sure how to really live anymore.   The love of his life, Jim, has died and he is grieving.   His whole world is gone and no one really knows; he can’t quite share the totality of it.   But he goes through the motions, grasping at connections and analyzing everything.   The raw range of emotions he feels is palpable; his loneliness is aching and painful.    I was completely engrossed.

George laughs in an appropriately sardonic manner, since this is what Grant expects of him.  But this gallows humor sickens his heart.  In all those old crises of the twenties, the thirties, the war – each one of them has left its traces upon George, like an illness – what was terrible was the fear of annihilation.  Now we have with us a far more terrible fear, the fear of survival.

I had intended to share more;   contemplated doing research on Huxley and Tennyson and Tithonus!    About the cold war and fear of ‘rockets’ and/or fear of survival.    Of course, the hating – hating ‘them’ because they are not ‘us’.      The longer I’m away from this reading experience, the more fascinated I am with what Isherwood has created.  As a character study as well as encapsulating a piece of time; this book is brilliantly done.

Based on feedback thus far among The Bookies, we will be having a polarized** and spirited discussion.     Golly, I so hope!

I also read this book for the GLBT Challenge.    

For the record, I want to thank the UofMN Press for the gorgeous and slickery feel of this tradeback.      I want to caress this book every time I pick it up.


*  I bought all of these because I want to read them/view them: An Education/Lynn Barber, Blindness/Saramago, Ethan Frome/Wharton, Up In the Air/Walter Kirn, The Maltese Falcon/Hammett, A River Runs Through It/Maclean…

**  I gave it four stars in goodreads;  others are not liking it quite as much.   I just might have to change my rating to five stars but can’t decide if I’m only being contrarian now.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

29 thoughts on “A Single Man

    1. All of these reviews are insightful – one has spoilers so skip that when you see it. Unless you like spoilers… oh – and don’t read comments on some because these, too, have spoilers.

  1. I’ve been meaning to read Isherwood, and what better excuse could there be than a film starring the lovely Colin Firth? 😛

  2. Thanks for the link, Care. Isherwood is brilliant and I hope to read more of his work this year. I was stunned by how complete such a short novel could be and how many ideas that it packed in. Your comments about the “you” and “not us” approach tying in with the Cold War is insightful. Enjoy your discussion!

    1. So many ideas! and yet I don’t think I got all of them until you set and think about the whole day’s events. I was struck by the term ‘rockets’ – I think he used it 3 times? And the whole survival issue was what he was contemplating, right?

  3. I was interested in this merely because of Colin Firth’s face (wanted to see the movie) but now I’ve just added the book to my wishlist. I’m really envious of you, having people to discuss with in person.

    1. I wish you could come with me. This meeting might be a doozy. FINALLY a book discussion that sets some love vs. strong-dislike?! I’m not the only one who is liking it. Should be fun.

    1. Thanks! I can’t, however, give you this one – it’s already promised. But you win Oryx and Crake. UH OH! I forgot about that!!! ah, you still win. Must announce.

    1. Besides the Oscar nom for Firth, I caught Tom Ford on Oprah – wowza! She was very enthusiastic about the film and I didn’t know a thing about it at that time. ie, theme, etc…

    1. CABARET!!! Directly quoted from Wiki: “The film is loosely based on the 1966 Broadway musical Cabaret by Kander and Ebb, which was adapted from (Isherwood’s) The Berlin Stories.”

  4. I read it as if there are two books going on. One is the narrative of George’s day in life, and the other the life that he has lost when his partner was killed in the accident. The movie makes great use of the change of light (color of the film) to illuminate these two narratives. Very smart.

    1. Thank you! I’m going to use this in book club discussion tomorrow… And you are only adding to my excitement to view the film – I’ve been reading dismal reviews that the only thing worthy is Firth’s performance. Well, and the beautiful design of it all.

  5. The jiffy individual definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things turn up dawn on to helper equal that would under no circumstances otherwise eat occurred. A uncut stream of events issues from the arbitration, raising in undivided’s favor all approach of surprising incidents and meetings and stuff backing, which no shackle could have in the offing dreamed would from submit c be communicated his way. Whatever you can do, or hallucination you can, open it. Boldness has flair, power and voodoo in it. Begin it now.

  6. For the record, I want to add that it was our BEST discussion to date. For so many of us having varied opinions, we really delved.

    Go Bookies!

Welcome! I invite you to comment. If for some reason commenting is troublesome, pls send email to BkClubCare [at] Gmail

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s