“Waking up begins with saying am and now.” This is the first line of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, a novel that, when it first appeared in 1964, shocked many with its frank, sympathetic and moving portrayal of a gay man.
The story, set in sunny Southern California in the 1960s, follows a middle-aged English professor adjusting to solitude after the death of his partner. Edmund White called the book one of the first and best of the modern gay liberation movement.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux has re-issued A Single Man in a collection that includes The Memorial: Portrait of a Family, an early Isherwood novel set in England in the aftermath of World War I, and Down There on a Visit, published in 1962 and considered the most accomplished of the writer’s novels.
Isherwood, who died in 1986, dedicated Down There on a Visit to Don Bachardy, an artist and the author’s partner for more than 30 years.
The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, also from FSG and edited by Katherine Bucknell, creates a remarkable portrait of the relationship between the two men. It is a strange, engrossing book — extraordinarily personal and unlike any other volume of letters in literature. “Animals” is a word the men use for themselves, for their private world, where Isherwood is a workhorse named “Dobbin” and Bachardy is a playful kitty cat.
“Our relationship is really so very, very strange,” Isherwood writes Bachardy, who today lives in Santa Monica, California. “No wonder it gives us trouble. I mean, I often feel that the Animals are far more than just a nursery joke or a cuteness. They exist. They are like Jung’s myths. They express a kind of freedom and truth which we otherwise wouldn’t have.”