Michael Cunningham (born November 6, 1952) is an American writer. He is best known for his 1998 novel The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999. Cunningham is a senior lecturer of creative writing at Yale University.
The Hours established Cunningham as a major force in American writing, and his 2010 novel, By Nightfall, was also well received by American critics. The Hours concerns three generations of women affected by a Virginia Woolf novel.
The first is Woolf herself writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. The second is Mrs. Brown, wife of a World War II veteran, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949 as she plans her husband’s birthday party. The third is Clarissa Vaughan, a bisexual, who plans a party in 2001 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover, the poet Richard, who is dying of an AIDS-related illness.
The situations of all three characters mirror situations experienced by Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway, with Clarissa Vaughan being a very literal modern-day version of Woolf’s character.
Did You Know?..
Two slight historical errors are present in Cunningham’s book.
The first is on page 30 (1998 edition) where he writes of Virginia Woolf, “She rises from her bed and goes into the bathroom.” Hogarth House was built in 1720 and in 1923, it did not have a bathroom, only an outhouse. The second is on p. 43 where Mrs. Brown in 1949 sees “beside the roses stand cereal box and milk carton…” Although Lucerne Dairy did have milk cartons in 1938, they did not come into common use until the 1960s. These are both corrected in the film; Woolf is depicted using a ewer and basin to wash in the morning, and the Browns have milk in a bottle.
Good to know even the pro’ make mistakes 🙂