I picked up Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel, `A Single Man <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Single_Man_(novel)>`_, after Richard and I went and saw the film of the same name, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. The film is beautiful, as you might expect with Tom Ford directing. While the film is largely faithful to the book, the original has its own beauty and nuance that I didn’t see on the screen — not because it’s a poor adaptation, but probably because the book’s nuance, the part I enjoyed the most, is the third person narrator, observing George in the present tense. Isherwood uses the the third person narration to subtly reinforce this feeling of otherness and separation from the world. Telling the story in the present tense, he allows the reader to experience the story as it’s told, unfolding at the pace dictated by the narrator. While I had some idea about the conclusion based on the film, this use of tense and pacing kept me from mentally racing ahead of the narrator.
A Single Man covers one day in the life of George, a gay British man living in southern California in 1962. Not exactly closeted like we understand it today, he’s living a life where he hides in plain site. He goes about his day wearing a mask, measuring his words, paying careful attention to expectations. Jim, his long time partner (although that word is never used, of course), has just died, and people around him either don’t know, or don’t really understand the loss that’s occurred. The book opens with a description of waking up, of the slow return to consciousness, and then the conscious application of the mask to become the George “they” expect. This idea that we have different people, different actors, inside us all is one of the central themes the book explores. It’s a theme I really enjoyed seeing Isherwood play with and explore.
Anyone looking to step into a queer man’s shoes for a day before Stonewall could do far worse than pick up A Single Man.