Tag Archives: Christopher Isherwood

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood Title: A Single Man
Author: Christopher Isherwood
Publisher: Picador Modern Classics
ISBN: 978-1250239372
Genre: LGBT Classic Fiction, LGBT Fiction,
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Literature can save you; they say. Literature heals. Literature mends a broken heart, and literature also hurts. Literature takes a part of you and has the capacity to rip it apart as well. That’s the power of literature too.

 A Single Man is a reread for me. I think I read it again for the fourth time or so. I first read it in 2002 I think or was it 2003? I don’t remember the year. Sometime then, I suppose. Anyway, I then watched the film in 2009 and my heart was a mess. It was a wreck when I read the book and the movie did its bit as well. Of ruining and moving on.

 A Single Man when read in the 30s gives you a totally different perspective of what life might be as you age, and that too for a gay man. It will not be easy. The book set in 1962, tells the story of George – a middle-aged Englishman who is a professor at a Los Angeles university. It is a circadian novel (one that spans through a day), and a very effective one at that.

In all of this, the book takes us through George’s life – sometimes as a gay man, sometimes more than that, sometimes just as a man who is lonely and yearns for company, and at others a man who is almost done with the world and not quite so. Isherwood’s writing is fulfilling, brutal, and very real.

For instance, this depiction of two men who are lovers and living together, is perfect. One might think it is written so simply and yet it conjures so many images:

“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!”

A Single Man is a story of two Georges as well. The one who wants to say so much, and the one who doesn’t. The book is full of internal monologues – his life sometime in the past and in the present. I think the time in which the book is set is also so indicative of everything that was homophobic, xenophobic, and yet professing free love to the moon and back.

Isherwood writes as an insider, and yet it always seems he is an outsider looking in – maintaining a perfect balance, a dance almost, with wit intact, and prose that is poignant to the brim. The question of death and life are the core of this most beautifully rendered novel. It addresses bigger issues of loneliness and isolation, seen through the lens of a gay man is purely coincidental. There is also a lot of self-loathing for just being who he is that made my heart go out to George.

A Single Man is a book that needs to be looked at very closely – without bias, and read over and over again to make true sense of what Isherwood wants to tell us – of what it is to be single and left out, in a room full of people – in a world that is too crowded.

387 Short Stories: Day 44 to Day 48: Stories Read

Day 44 to Day 48 went by very fast. 5 stories were read and since I did not want to write separate posts about them for now, I decided to club them in one post. So here goes:

Day 44: Story 44: The Gun by Philip K. Dick. Taken from the Collection: Beyond Lies the Wub

Beyond Lies The Wub by Philip K Dick

A story of space explorers who are investigating a deserted planet. A ruined city. A gun which shot most of them down. It is a thriller of a story. A roller coaster ride and yet a sci-fi story so well layered. Philip K. Dick after all, was not a master of tales just like that. A read you must give a shot to.

Day 45: Story 45: Summer People by Ann Beattie. Taken from the Collection: Where You’ll Find Me and Other Stories

Where You'll Find Me and Other Stories by Ann Beatie

It takes a man to meet a stranger to realize that he is not connecting with his wife. The unraveling is the genius of the short-story writer. She makes everything seem so out of the ordinary and then suddenly the unexpected hits you. Only a few writers are capable of this. She is one of them.

Day 46: Story 46: Jacob’s Hands: A Fable by Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood.

Jacob's Hands

You bring two giants to write a short story and this is what you get: A story beyond words or imagination. It is a complex and absurd relationship between a healer, Jacob and the woman who he heals – Sharon, and how their paths cross and what happens to them as individuals. It is about love, redemption and its insecurity.

Day 47: Story 47: Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston. Taken from the Collection: The Complete Stories

The Complete Stories

Sweat is about a woman Delia – who is a washerwoman and she is Black and has an abusive marriage. The story revolves around her, her husband Sykes and his mistress Bertha. The dynamics of this trio are brilliantly observed and noted by Hurston and there is more to what meets the eye. Delia is a formidable female character that I have come across recently and the story is nuanced and peppered with a lot of humor and also revenge in a generous dose.

Day 48: Story 48: The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. Taken from the Collection: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Ernest Hemingway had to be read anyway. Without or without this initiative. The story is about Harry, who is dying in Africa while on a safari. He is recounting his life and memories and how has he lived. He does not care about anything now. For me, it was this surreal nature of this story that has led to scouring more works of Hemingway and reading them – one book at a time. The nature of Kilimanjaro and the role it plays in the story will leave you speechless. A must read.

Book Review: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy: Edited by Katherine Bucknell

The Animals - Edited by Katherine Bucknell Title: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy
Edited by: Katherine Bucknell
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701186784
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 528
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This has to be one of the best non-fiction books I have read this year. Or rather one of the best books of letters which I have read in a very long time. “The Animals” – Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and his long-standing lover Don Bachardy is a treat for anyone who loves being in love and reading about unconventional (so to say) love.

Christopher Isherwood was an acclaimed writer when he met Don Bachardy on a Santa Monica beach in 1952 and their love affair – or rather romance – or just love lasted until Chris’s death in 1986.

The book is about letters – they wrote to each other and the names they gave each other. Chris was Dobbins – the work horse while Don was Kitty – the young cat. The letters in themselves are sometimes calm and sometimes tumultuous and full of despair, jealousy and anger. It is the usual letters that lovers write and also somewhere down the line; they are unusual, given the nature of their relationship and the but obvious age-gap.

The letters make you ponder about the times they lived in, how they loved and how they did not fear to live as a couple – given the social thinking in the 50s. They wavered and fought like any other couple. They had their differences and yet somehow in the letters, you see the great love between them. Something that we all want to achieve. It did take me some time to get through the letters, however the experience has been extremely rewarding. The idea of getting to know Isherwood more and his relationships was intriguing for me and I am only glad that I read this book.

I will recommend it only to people who are interested in a book of this nature. Of a different love in a different time and age.