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Single Man Paperback – Aug 1969


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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (Aug. 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140026029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140026023
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,488,467 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) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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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Customer Reviews

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kyatic on 26 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book. The touches of humour throughout, despite the sad premise, were deft and effective. Having seen the film first, I was surprised to see how much more personality George has in the book - in the film, we really only see him through the window of his own grief for the death of his partner, Jim, but the book offers us a much deeper insight into who George really is. He's catty, witty, bitter and cynical, and his mourning is only a very small part of his psyche.

For much of the book, we see him go about his day much as any other lonely citizen would. He drives to work and ruminates about killing all the people he despises. He watches two men playing tennis and fantasises about them later. He goes to the gym, visits friends and talks to his students. However, all of this is done beneath the veil of a deep, heart-wrenching loss, and the subtlety with which this sense of loss ebbs and flows throughout the narrative is incredibly poignant. He isn't always thinking about Jim, but he's never not thinking about him. Jim is always there, but he's not often entirely so. He ghosts through George's consciousness when George can bear to bring him to mind, but even when he can't, we still feel his presence in the empty house they once shared.

Other elements of the book that impressed me were the dimensions of the supporting characters. For example, the character of Charley in the film is shallow, vain and narcissistic, and clings desperately to the hope that George will one day come to his senses and fall in love with her. The Charley of the book is much more sympathetic - yes, she's still vain and slightly clueless, but underneath it all is a genuine platonic love for George, and a very real understanding of his relationship with Jim.
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