A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, author of the magnificent Goodbye To Berlin http://realini.blogspot.com/2019/08/goodbye-to-berlin-by-christopher.html
9 out of 10
One of the determinant factors in taking on a book, continuing to read and immersing in it, ultimately enjoying it to one degree or another is the amount we share with the main character and eventually, with some of the other spirits present in the work, also the pleasantness or otherwise of the lives that are inviting us to step in, this is referring to the regretted Umberto Eco quote – ‘The person who doesn't read lives only one life…The reader lives 5,000…Reading is immortality backwards” and that is an issue here.
If A Single Man is clearly the work of a Magister Ludi – this is from the glorious Glasperlenspiel http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/03/the-glass-bead-game-by-herman-hesse.html of Nobel laureate Herman Hesse and it is about The Master of the Game – and the under signed has been elated by the Berlin Stories, the life of a bachelor living in 1962, on the West coast of the United States could be the envy of many who think they would be so happy, if only they were living in the USA – which is wrong, this is one of the myths of happiness exposed by both Sonja Lyubomirsky and Daniel Gilbert in their wondrous The Myths of Happiness and Stumbling On Happiness respectively – but there is another side of the coin.
George, the hero, is Single because in 1962 he would not be allowed to marry a man, he is a homosexual man, and it was illegal to have a relationship with another human male, and furthermore, society was against what they mostly saw as a sin and a perversion, being caught in the act, or having proofs of this kind of intimacy would lead to jail sentences and we have some famous examples of great men that suffered because of their sexual orientation, Alan Turing and Oscar Wilde are just two examples.
In spite – or because – of a different sexual preference, there is much to share between this reader and George, first of all we have the exact same age, then we are both Single in some ways, albeit married, the spouse and I have a marital connection and live in the same house only for practical, materialistic reasons, for were we to divorce, neither would be able to live like we do now, and besides, there are the two macaws, Balzac and Puccini –if interested, you can see them on the blog -
http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/03/realini-in-newsweek-participant-in.html - and the problem of accommodating them in a flat
As it is, when they scream in this house, you can hear them from outside, and if we are in the garden and Balzac (he is the noisier villain) instantly gives voice to one of his complaints, scares, idiosyncrasies, you can hear him for what, miles, this would be because they would sound the alarm in the jungle and be heard over distances and this means that in an apartment, they would call the police it they hear this alert
Then there would be the children that George has in the vicinity, the carbide cannons they shoot, the noise they make, and if the protagonist of the novel does not mind much, would not protest and he is generally a very affable, decent, polite, kind man, then this is where we separate for I cannot stand the damn kids that populate our neighborhood, granted, they do much more than noise, they break things (and then I am asked to pay for the damage, along with the ‘community’, along with massive waste on asphalt, which will do me no good, indeed, I do not own any pieces of the streets of the gated community, but the goddamn brats would have venues to use fireworks, smash, run wild on foot, bicycle, scooter and each other, swear, listen to manele, transform the place into an early Hades at times
George is traumatized by the death of Jim, his lover, who has died in a car crash and then the surviving partner has had to send away all the animals they cared for, because they reminded him of the departed – again, we have had a zoo here, and this is yet another element to share with the Single Man, we have had five borzoi (one is left), one mutt, two macaws, a cat, Ndugu, who is now replaced by between five and ten roaming cats, five seem to have settles in and around the garden, while other come at seven pm, and at other hours, to ask for food, and there have been accidents and we took in temporarily magpies and other creatures…
The Single Man is a good teacher, he even taught this reader the myth that has Aphrodite catching her lover, are, in bed with Eos, the goddess of dawn, and thus the furious Aphrodite cursed Eos with a crave for mortal boys…the latter starts kidnapping boys, one is Tethonious, and Zeus is asked for immortality, which is granted, but because the demand failed to mention eternal youth, the immortal gets old, he is gaga and locked, eventually turning into a cicada…this is telling us about something in our hero, but what?
Christopher Isherwood delves into hating minorities (who hate the majorities back) and he has a clear insight, for like his protagonist, the author was homosexual and knew his subject well, perhaps we can find more if we search the matter on how much he was inspired by his own life in creating The Single Man, the experiences…it is said that it is all about the novelist, even when the characters are the exact opposite
The professor meets one of his students in a bar, and they have a little adventure, the latter is supposed to be in a relationship with Lois, a Japanese American woman, and we find some details on that, how they had had sex, he took her to this motel, but she was displeased with the premises and therefore went back in the car, only there is speculation that maybe he had wanted her to leave, so that he could find George in the bar that he frequents, and we seem to be heading towards an intimacy between the two, however inappropriate and against the rules and maybe morality as well it would be, the student tests the spontaneity, authenticity and youth of the professor and asks about going to swim, right now
They go swimming in the ocean, under the influence as they are, maybe one drunk and the other on the way there, flirting might be affected by the intoxication, but the older man invites the younger to use his apartment, where he has a bed for guests, whenever the student does not have proper premises for his intimacy with Lois, and then we have an outré ending, we are invited to suppose that this could happen…