Welcome to the discussion forum for Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man. With this forum, the University of Minnesota Press invites you to leave a comment and chat with other readers about all things A Single Man and Isherwood: Your favorite passages of the book; your thoughts on how the book and the film align; your reactions to UMP’s Reading Group Guide discussion questions; and anything in between.
James J. Berg, editor of Isherwood on Writing and co-editor (with Chris Freeman) of Conversations with Christopher Isherwood and The Isherwood Century, has agreed to help jump-start discussion. Here are a few questions complementary to those found in the Reading Group Guide:
1: Isherwood called his novel “A Single Man.” We know that George has lost his partner, Jim, in a car accident. But is that the only way in which George is “single”? How else does the title apply to the character?
2: The novel presents a day in the life of George. There are some famous examples of novels like this — James Joyce’s Ulysses and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. One common interpretation of this type of novel is that the main character is meant to be an Everyman (or Everywoman) that all readers identify with. In what ways can you identify with George? In what ways is this story one of everyday people, not just George, but Jim, Doris, Charlotte, etc.?
3: Edmund White, author of A Boy’s Own Story and The Married Man, called A Single Man “One of the first and best novels of the modern gay liberation movement.” One of the things that makes the novel significant is that George’s sexuality is never in question. It is not a problem for him to “deal with” — it is simply a part of his life. How does this novel differ in its handling of George’s sexuality from other books that you’ve read? What do you think about the way the movie handles George’s sexuality? What surprises you about George as a gay man in the 1960s?
UPDATE: Here are some recent links that address the film-vs.-book controversy:
–The Times (London) interviews Isherwood’s surviving partner, Don Bachardy, who had a hand in the making of the film.
–glbtq: Claude Summers addresses the film’s specific departures from the novel.