Culture

Exclusive Outtakes of Michael Cunningham, Author of ‘By Nightfall’ and ‘The Hours’

Culture

Exclusive Outtakes of Michael Cunningham, Author of ‘By Nightfall’ and ‘The Hours’

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Out-of-body experiences are a writer’s stock in trade. Michael Cunningham, whose fictional re-imagining of Virginia Woolf’s last hours got him Pulitzered in 1999, knows it better than anyone. We were talking about writing–and why so many writers are freaks–when the subject of aliens came up:

 

 

 

 

“Have you ever seen Velvet Goldmine?”
Yes!”

“That’s my favorite theory about Oscar Wilde. Beamed down.”
Beamed down! How else would you explain it?”
“It’s interesting that you can kind of pluck out these different social strata and it’s always about the same thing, about needing things. You would think it would get old.”
“You would think. And yet as a species we don’t get over certain fundamental desires and so we seem never to tire of reading about them. The stories we want to hear have kind of kept pace with our obdurate sameness over the millennia—we’re like children, we want to hear the same story over and over again. I’ve always felt that the reading of certain books was a profound and visceral experience and thus part of my material, just as are the more traditional experiences of first love, abusive parents and all that stuff that we’re expected to write novels about.”
“The abusive parents stuff never gets old.”
No, it doesn’t, because parents continue to be abusive.”
“It’s a vicious cycle. If only they knew how many bad novels they were responsible for, they would stop instantly”
Just to get the novelists to shut up about it.”

 

 

 Michael Cunningham, author of By Nightfall and The Hours, in conversation with Henry Giardina