A Single Man: A Novel

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Welcome to sunny suburban 1960s Southern California. George is a gay middle-aged English professor, adjusting to solitude after the tragic death of his young partner. He is determined to persist in the routines of his former life. A Single Man follows him over the course of an ordinary twenty-four hours. Behind his British reserve, tides of grief, rage, and loneliness surge—but what is revealed is a man who loves being alive despite all the everyday injustices.

When Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man first appeared, it shocked many with its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in maturity. Isherwood's favorite of his own novels, it now stands as a classic lyric meditation on life as an outsider.

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About the author

Christopher Isherwood (1904–1986) was born outside Manchester, England. He lived in Berlin from 1929 to 1933 and emigrated from Europe to the United States in 1939. A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, he wrote more than twenty books.
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Additional Information

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Nov 19, 2013
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Fiction / LGBT / Gay
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In the 1960s, Christopher Isherwood gave an unprecedented series of lectures at California universities on the theme “A Writer and His World.” During this time Isherwood, who would liberate the memoir and become the founding father of modern gay writing, spoke openly for the first time about his craft—on writing for film, theater, and novels—and on spirituality. Isherwood on Writing brings these public addresses together to reveal a distinctly—and surprisingly—American Isherwood.


Given at a critical time in Isherwood’s career, these lectures mark the era when he turned from fiction to memoir. In free-flowing, wide-ranging discussions, he reflects on such topics as why writers write, what makes a novel great, and what influenced his own work. Isherwood talks about his working relationship with W. H. Auden; his literary friendships with E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Stephen Spender, Aldous Huxley, and Somerset Maugham; and his work in the film industry in London and Hollywood. He also explores uncharted territory in candid comments on his own work, something not contained in his diaries.


Isherwood on Writing uncovers an important and often-misunderstood time in Isherwood’s life in America. The lectures present, in James J. Berg’s words, “an example of a man, comfortable in his own sexuality and self, trying to talk about himself and his own life in a society that is not yet ready to hear the whole story.”


A major figure in twentieth-century fiction and the gay rights movement, Christopher Isherwood (1904–1986) is the author of many books, including A Single Man and Down There on a Visit, available from Minnesota.


James J. Berg is dean of liberal arts and sciences at Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota. He is editor, with Chris Freeman, of The Isherwood Century: Essays on the Life and Work of Christopher Isherwood (winner of the Lambda Award) and Conversations with Christopher Isherwood.


Claude Summers is professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan, Dearborn and author of many works, including Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall.

Opening a window into the most fascinating and, in many ways, most mysterious period in Christopher Isherwood’s life, Kathleen and Christopher collects more than one hundred previously unpublished letters the young author wrote to his mother between 1935 and 1940. Composed while he was still a struggling writer, they offer a brilliant eyewitness account of Europe on the brink of war and an intimate look at the early career of a major literary figure. 

Because Isherwood destroyed his diaries from these years, these letters—published for the first time and edited and introduced by Lisa Colletta—provide one of the few records of this part of his life not filtered through the lens of time and memory. They contain requests for money and books, descriptions of his travels, stories of his friends W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, reactions to the critical reception of his Berlin Stories, and a tense account of his failed attempt to save his lover Heinz from conscription into the Nazi military. The final letters in this volume document Isherwood’s journey to Los Angeles, where he permanently settled. Also included are thirty images from Isherwood’s personal photo album and reproductions of postcards from his international travels. 

Warm, confiding, and sometimes quite caustic, the letters also reveal a closer affection between the young Isherwood and his mother than his biographers have portrayed. While Isherwood acknowledged that it took him a long time to come to terms with his mother’s influence on his life, the letters in Kathleen and Christopher dispute the prevalent idea that theirs was a relationship rife with conflict. Isherwood’s everyday correspondence, written in extraordinary times, reveals a complex yet wholly recognizable and very close bond between mother and son. She was for him, in turns, an agent, a sounding board, and an unbreakable connection to England. 

Lisa Colletta is assistant professor of English at Babson College. She is the author of Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel.
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