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A Single Man (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 4 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099541289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099541288
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The best prose writer in English" (Gore Vidal)

"A virtuoso piece of work...courageous...powerful" (Sunday Times)

"His key post-war work. A quarter-century ahead of its time in its portrayal of a quotidian homosexual life, it inspired a generation of gay writers in Britain and the US" (Independent)

"Lyrical and intensely moving" (Daily Telegraph)

"A testimony to Isherwood's undiminished brilliance as a novelist" (Anthony Burgess)

Review

His key postwar work. A quarter-century ahead of its time in its portrayal of a quotidian homosexual life, it inspired a generation of gay writers in Britain and the US - Independent This mix of humour and stoicism in the face of pent-up grief is essential Isherwood --Guardian

His own highly personal form of fiction [is one] in which simple sentences strike a note of great intimacy with the reader as if to a close personal friend, and a sense of total honesty is sought. This style, witty, observant, nostalgic, exact, was Isherwood's great contribution to modern literature --Financial Times

He had dazzling talents as a writer. His literary production was pre-eminent for its wit, humour, charm of style and narrative skill... A Single Man can be almost considered as his masterpiece --Guardian, John Lehmann

Very sad and yet at times wildly funny --The Daily Telegraph

An absolutely devastating, unnerving, brilliant book --Stephen Spender

Lyrical and intensely moving --Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By schumann_bg TOP 50 REVIEWER on 25 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
A Single Man gives as much pleasure as you can get from a novel, I think, as the central figure is engaging - but not too 'nice' to be convincing - and the writing is unfailingly communicative as can only suggest quite a lot of common ground between George and Isherwood himself, even if we know Isherwood didn't lose his lover. The happy gay relationship - again not over-idealised - is here a thing of the past after a fatal accident, and the question the book poses is, how does one find meaning in life in middle-age in these circumstances? The book takes the form of different episodes in his day which have a much more mixed flavour than the Tom Ford film - and there are more of them. He visits a woman dying in hospital, for instance, and goes to a gay-friendly gym. He is also a good ten years older than Colin Firth who played him in the film - Firth was excellent, but the character is again brought closer to an ideal, as is his friend Charlotte. You might say the film is a kind of fantasy where the book is rooted very much in real life, even if the events follow a similar outline, with the marvellous swim in the night sea, drunk, with his student Kenny, followed by a rather less glossed continuation at his house. Another major difference is that there is no mention of suicide in the book - a facet of the film that weakened it somewhat, perhaps tapping into the mood of The Hours ... Where the novel really comes into its own is in the sense of being buoyed up by Isherwood's amazing narrative voice. The opening and close of the book are among the best I have ever read - the latter has a perfectly pitched ambiguity that I couldn't give away, but it taps into the same feeling as the opening and brings full circle a narrative thread that carries infinite humanity on the long fragile line that is any work of prose, even one as great as this, and as succinct at just over 150 pages.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Dec. 2009
Format: Audio CD
If you have not read Christopher Isherwood you have missed the work of a brilliant author. This particular book was praised by the NY Times as "...a sad, sly report on the predicament of the human animal." Isherwood's prose is spare, mesmerizing; his words well chosen, succinct, meaningful. Most importantly, his writings are true.

When first published about a half century ago A SINGLE MAN was considered shocking as it portrayed for the first time the life of a gay man, George, who was recently bereaved and trying to adjust to life without his partner. George is a college professor, careful, thoughtful. The all too brief story covers just 24 hours from the moment he awakens in the morning and remembers that he has lost his partner to his studied, sometimes painful navigation of the day.

We are privy not only to his actions but to his thoughts, thus we share his predicament, a very human one. George is an Englishman living in southern California, a place a bit inhospitable to a middle-aged scholar yet he perseveres by observing routine. Haven't many of us found ourselves left with that as our one means of coping? For this reader/listener that is the beauty of Isherwood as A SINGLE MAN is not solely a drama of gay life but of all humanity.

Reader Simon Prebble gives voice to George with understanding, and skillful narration. British born his voice is perfectly suited for this role.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the hugely successful movie version of A SINGLE MAN by Tom Ford - don't miss this. And hearty recommendations also for Isherwood's Christopher and His Kind and Prater Violet also found on audio from HighBridge.

- Gail Cooke
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By c westwood on 7 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
Isherwood's writing had as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster, which he would have been the first to admit, but this is (I think) the rose amongst the thorns that were his 'middle' books - a sensitive, heart warming and tender depiction of the life of a middle aged, gay male in mid-century America. This was the first of his books I read, and lead me to read all the others.
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By MG on 20 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully written: poetic/dryly comic/ moving /neatly observed economic prose. Isherwood tells the story of a day in the life of a gay Englishman living in Santa Monica, lecturing at Californian university. An outsider by birth, culture and sexual orientation he is grieving the loss of his long time partner killed in a car accident. The narrative effectively distances and objectifies the central character at the beginning as he wakes and forces himself to consciousness, then grows in fluidity as he consciously pulls on his outer persona on the drive to work, and begins the teaching of a literature class. The constraints, desires and thoughts are conveyed effectively through his interactions with neighbours, students and ex-pat friend as we journey with him into the evening.

In the documentary'Chris & Don: A Love Story', filmed in the house Isherwood shared with his younger lover for over 30 years, amid his numerous paintings and drawings of Isherwood, Bachardy reveals that this story was written during one of their 'difficult' years when Bachardy in an extra-marital relationship thought about leaving, and Isherwood tried to imagine what life would be like without him. The pain that comes from that contemplation is transmuted to this impressive novel that celebrates the beauty of life as well as mourning loss. As a further connective pleasure, the subsequent film by Tom Ford featuring an elegantly clad Colin Firth beautifully captures the tone, mood and spirit of Isherwood's original.
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