Author discusses award-winning novel

Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham talked at Penn about his newest book.

The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 12, 2002

Michael Cunningham

Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham talked at Penn about his newest book

The Daily Pennsylvanian

A hushed crowd of over 100 people crammed into the Kelly Writers House last night to witness renowned author Michael Cunningham discuss his 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours. The Hours, a novel based on the Virginia Woolf book Mrs. Dalloway, depicts the lives of three women, each of whom must cope with her delegated path through the world. While their lives begin apart, Cunningham subtly weaves them together throughout the tale.

Throughout his career, Cunningham has written other notable works, such as At Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood. His works have also appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly, Redbook, The New Yorker, Vogue and The Paris Review. However, this Stanford graduate's fame only began to explode upon the publication of The Hours.

Not only have critics, readers and writers recognized the merit of Cunningham's most recent creation, but the film industry has even grasped the opportunity to work with The Hours. A film version of the novel, based on the screenplay written by English playwright David Hare, is currently under production and consists of an all-star cast including Julianne Moore, Claire Danes, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris and Nicole Kidman.

Even with the recent overwhelming recognition of his talents, Cunningham is still willing to spend much of his time with appreciative readers and aspiring writers. While at Penn, he has spent numerous hours with select students from English 285, the Writers House Fellows Seminar, in which his works have been intensely studied throughout the semester.

"It has been one of the best experiences of my life," College freshman Jessica Ginsberg said about studying and meeting the author. "I couldn't imagine a more down-to-earth person who relates to people so well."

"I changed my entire abroad plans so I could take this course and meet Michael Cunningham," College junior Dan Fishback, a DP columnist, said. "His prose slides into my mind like a daydream."

In appreciation of his time spent with the students and in recognition of The Hours, the students presented Cunningham with the gift of a clock. The emotionally-touched Cunningham sighed and remarked, "It sort of makes the whole effort seem worthwhile."

Although Cunningham said he is intimidated about how to proceed with his career after so much recognition, he is currently creating an innovative work which he describes as a compilation of different novels in different genres.

In the end, Cunningham was candid about his book's success.

The "success of The Hours took everyone by complete surprise," he said. "This shows that they have no idea, so we should just write what we want."