A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood

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“I’m like a book you have to read. A book can’t read itself to you. It doesn’t even know what it’s about.”

I counted. I read 31 books in 2013. Nine of them were for Bookstravaganza. It’s kind of insane that one third of my reading took place over the course of one month. It gives me hope for next year, when I intend to read at least 52 books, one for every week of the year. This experience has been very enjoyable—even when I read a book I absolutely loathed, I got to write a scathing, rage-filled review to expel my bile. But most of the books I read were gems, and Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man is no exception.

I watched the movie first, and I thought it was Ken-Doll beautiful like Nicholas Hoult, but also quite boring. So I never gave this book a chance, and in fact I kind of dreaded picking it up. It was required reading, canonical queer literature, not something exciting or stimulating. But Isherwood’s prose brought George to life so much more than Ford’s cinematography. A single day—the last day—in the life of a single man, his final chapter. The book is at once less sexy than the movie (George isn’t getting with anyone, not even really flirting openly) and way more sexy. George’s inner world of fantasizing, appreciating beauty, masturbating, reflecting is so potent and surprisingly explicit for a book published in 1964. I guess that’s why Isherwood is so iconic, to use that meaningless buzzword in a hopefully meaningful way. I would recommend this book to everyone, and I am excited to read more of Christopher Isherwood’s writing now, especially Christopher And His Kind, whose movie adaptation I thoroughly enjoyed.

So this is the end. I leave you with my favourite passage from the book, a beautiful metaphor that George invokes. He’s describing the public reaction to the idea of pursuing a career in the arts or academia, as well as the knowledge he provides to his students as a professor of the liberal arts. “George is like a man trying to sell a real diamond for a nickel, on the street. The diamond is protected from all but the tiniest few, because the great hurrying majority can never stop to dare to believe that it could conceivably be real.” In the same way, reading is this diamond we can buy for a nickel. We hear all this doom-and-gloom in the 21st century about how the great hurrying majority has little time for or interest in reading anymore. But if we take the time to make the time, to read nine books in a month, then we can have this amazing thing, this diamond. I really hope that we can make a significant donation to the Love of Reading foundation, and give that nickel to children across Alberta.

Happy 2014! Keep reading. Stay calm. Love life. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts 🙂

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