Friday, 20 May 2011
A Single Man
A Single Man
by Christopher Isherwood
I just want to write a short, quick post on this powerful, yet delicate, eloquent novel. Another recent read, Bell, (the daughter), accidentally left her copy of this quite compelling short novel, at home over the Easter weekend. Bell had raved about the movie and how much she loved it, and quite coincidentally someone else had recently mentioned how impressed they were with the film version of Isherwood’s novel. Over Easter I also watched the movie with Bell and I also found it to be a powerful,beautiful film, containing a compelling performance from Colin Firth and wonderful cinematography. It is very much an art house film, so no doubt not to everyone’s taste but well worth the viewing and I must admit that in a way I am glad I saw the film before reading the book, normally I would never see a movie before reading the book, but both texts seem to exist independently of each other and are quite powerful in their respective mediums.
A short novel, the story takes place in a twenty four hour period in the life of George, a middle aged, gay academic, who has recently lost his lover in a sudden accident. Essentially a simple premise, but in effect a quite profound exploration of life and what it means to be alive. (There are significant differences between the film and the novel but these do not detract from the overall effect of either text.) Set in the 60s, with the Cuban missile crisis and cold war paranoia overshadowing life at large it is essentially an optimistic, life affirming tale, told with humour, insight and great irony. The novel reminded me somewhat of Alan Bennet’s History Boys, both texts share a gay agenda of course, but that is not what makes them great works. Like Bennet, Isherwood is fascinated by what life ultimately means and how important it is to grasp it while we have it, also like Bennet, Isherwood sees the humour and absurdity in life and translates into a narrative that lingers in the mind and enriches the everyday. Normally I would include a quote from the book, books should always speak for themselves, but given I returned Bell’s copy I do not have a copy to consult so I will leave it at this. (I seem to be playing catch up now that I am finally back blogging and this just another short post on a recent read).