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
Read all the quotes that link has to offer because this man was an absolute genius.
Following the death of his lover, George (the protagonist and narrator of this story) mopes through his idyllic house – once filled to the brim with pets and a mutual love of books – and ponders over his recent, devastating loss. Although deeply thought-provoking, this book takes a beautiful approach to unrequited love in sixties America as George dwells on his past and struggles through the daily life of a homosexual “widower”, unable to tell any of his colleagues or students about his mourning.
However, George soon finds solitude in the company of one of his students, Kenny, who plays a key role in the events to come – including the discovery of the intimacy pencil sharpener buying can introduce…
Don’t worry! No spoilers, of course.
This book really is one of the best novels I have ever read. Warning: It may not be to everybody’s taste as it does skirt over some rather polemical topics, even outside of homosexuality. As time has passed, homosexuality has lost some of its controvercy for a lot of people, but this book facilitates acceptance and ignorance, taken from the perspective of a victim of both.
The writing of this book is, at times, obscure – but absolutely ingenious! In fact, the obscure parts, although confusing, are absolutely magnifiscent as they unfold:
I was never terribly fond of waking up.
I was never one to jump out of bed and greet the day with a smile like Jim was.
I used to want to punch him sometimes in the morning he was so happy.
I always used to tell him that only fools greet the day with a smile, that only fools could possibly escape the simple truth that now isn’t simply now: it’s a cold reminder. One day later than yesterday, one year later than last year and that sooner or later it will come.
He used to laugh at me and then give me a kiss on the cheek.
It takes time in the morning for me to become George, time to adjust to what is expected of George and how he is to behave.
By the time I have dressed and put the final layer of polish on the now slightly stiff but quite perfect George I know fully what part I’m supposed to play.
Looking in the mirror staring back at me isn’t so much a face as the expression of a predicament.
Just get through the goddamn day.
A bit melodramatic, I guess.
But then again, my heart has been broken.
As you can see, George appears to be quite the pessimist…but he does have moments of bright thoughts, and they are equally as well written!
Such an amazing author, the likes of whom I would never have known existed without having watched the film of this book (Ahh!! Sacralige!! Film before book?! Utter madness!!). Despite this somewhat backwards approach, I don’t think I would have enjoyed either anymore had I done it the other way around – the film really does the book justice and I would recommend that too! With none other than Colin Firth, Mr. British himself, playing George and About A Boy child star, Nicholas Hoult, as Kenny, the film really does offer a gorgeous smorgasbord of delightful stylistic features, as well as the emotive elements found throughout the book.
A fantastic book with a fantastic film to match!