Monday, December 28, 2009

All Past is Obsolete

A Single Man

by Christopher Isherwood

"But now isn't simply now. Now is also a cold reminder: one whole day later than yesterday, one year later than last year. Every now is labeled with its date, rendering all past nows obsolete, until -- later of sooner -- perhaps -- no, not perhaps -- quite certainly: it will come."
- A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood, p299

One day in the life of a man is the basis for Christopher Isherwood's penultimate and what many consider his best novel, A Single Man. Written from in the first person the protagonist, George, is reflecting on his life and friends as he lives through an ordinary day in the shadow of the sudden death of his partner, Jim. Using meditative prose Isherwood manages to express both the inner being of George and his memories of the past. But the present, through episodes with his former lover Charley, before his years with Jim, and his students, especially Kenny Potter, is intertwined with the memories to make this an exceptional read. George is an Englishman and a professor living in suburban Southern California, he is also an outsider in every way, and his internal reflections and interactions with others reveal a man who loves being alive despite everyday injustices and loneliness. 
Isherwood's fine short novel is also an honest look at his life by a man who accepts his being as a homosexual and reveres the life he had for many years with his partner Jim. He succeeds in bringing George's life alive even as both the day and his life wind down with a not unexpected quiet confidence.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996 (1964)

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