A Single Man

A Single Man



The Pequod Review:

George is a middle-aged literature professor living in California, and his partner Jim has just died in a car accident. George’s and Jim’s relationship was a secret, which means that George is not only grieving but cannot grieve publicly, and must cope with the daily frustrations of living in a society that disapproves of his lifestyle. A Single Man is short and slight, but the tone and writing is pitch-perfect, without a single wasted word. And Isherwood has a devastating eye for the details of everyday life. Here for example is his description of a recreational tennis match George passes upon, where he spots an over-matched player:

He is so sweet-naturedly beautiful, so nobly made; and yet his classical cream-marble body seems a handicap to him. The rules of the game inhibit it from functioning. He is fighting at a hopeless disadvantage. He should throw away his useless racket, vault over the net, and force [his opponent] to submit to his marble strength. No, on the contrary, the blond boy accepts the rules, binds himself by them, will suffer defeat and humiliation rather than break them… He will fight clean, a perfect sportsman, until he has lost the last game. And won’t this keep happening to him all through his life? Won’t he keep getting himself involved in the wrong kind of game, the kind of game he was never born to play, against an opponent who is quick and clever and merciless?

There are many such moments throughout the book. Highly recommended.