Michael Cunningham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer most renowned for his decades-spanning novel <i>The Hours</i> (1998) and its lauded 2002 film adaptation. After attending graduate sch...
The Cunningham-scripted adaptation of A Home at the End of the World appeared in theaters
Won a Guggenheim Fellowship
The Hours arrived and received critical praise
Received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship
Specimen Days published
Published third novel, Flesh and Blood
Published his first novel, Golden States
The movie version of The Hours released to accolades
Released second book, A Home at the End of the World
Michael Cunningham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer most renowned for his decades-spanning novel <i>The Hours</i> (1998) and its lauded 2002 film adaptation. After attending graduate school in creative writing, Cunningham began his career as a novelist, though he didn't gain notable recognition until the publication of his second book, the intricate and intimate tale <i>A Home at the End of the World</i> (1990). As a gay man, Cunningham found homosexuality to be a natural element in his work, as further evinced by the family saga <i>Flesh and Blood</i> (1995). Already established as an esteemed author, he reached a new level of success and acclamation with <i>The Hours</i>, which presents the stories of three women of different generations struggling with love and sexuality. The novel was subsequently adapted into a star-studded drama in 2002, and Cunningham himself later scripted a 2004 film version of <i>A Home at the End of the World</i>. His literary follow-up, <i>Specimen Days</i> (2005), had a relatively lukewarm reception, but his next novel, the pensive <i>By Nightfall</i> (2010), reasserted his status as major American writer.<p>Raised in Pasadena, CA, Michael Cunningham headed north to pursue an English degree at Stanford University and later enrolled in the esteemed Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. In 1984, Cunningham's debut novel, <i>Golden States</i>, was published, but he later distanced himself from the coming-of-age story, dismissing it as a formative misfire. Towards the end of the decade, he unveiled the short story "White Angel," which was later worked into his novel <i>A Home at the End of the World</i> (1990). Tackling themes of sexual identity and love, the book resonated with readers and garnered Cunningham a notable following. As he worked on his next offering, he was awarded a 1993 Guggenheim Fellowship, and <i>Flesh and Blood</i> (1995) came next, a more ambitious and complex tale about a family with Greek and Italian roots.<p>In 1998, Cunningham hit new heights in his career, receiving a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and debuting his novel <i>The Hours</i>, which was met with numerous accolades, going on to win both the PEN/Faulkner Award and a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Consisting of three stories set in different time periods, the book featured revered English author Virginia Woolf as one of its main characters and explored themes of sexual orientation, mental illness, and death with thoughtful and poetic prose. It wasn't long before the Hollywood adaptation went into production, with director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter David Hare guiding a high-profile cast that included Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman, who won an Oscar for her sensitive portrayal of Woolf.<p>Opting to write his own script for the 2004 movie version of <i>A Home at the End of the World</i>, Cunningham worked outside of his comfort zone as a screenwriter, and the result may have affected the finished production, starring Colin Farrell and Robin Wright Penn, which had some admirers but ultimately fell short of expectations. Inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Cunningham made the American literary icon a presence in his next novel, <i>Specimen Days</i> (2005), but baffled some readers with the book's detour into science fiction. Venturing back into screenwriter territory, this time with fellow author Susan Minot, Cunningham co-wrote the script for the film adaptation of her novel <i>Evening</i> (1998), which featured a remarkable ensemble cast, including Claire Danes and Vanessa Redgrave, but failed to make a lasting cinematic impression. Readers waiting for a return to form from Cunningham were largely pleased with <i>By Nightfall</i> (2010), the story of a restless Manhattan family rooted in the art world that marked a more focused approach for the acclaimed author.
Iowa Writer's Workshop, University of Iowa
"As a novelist you either find your way into a body of emotions, or you don’t. I can’t imagine writing believably about feelings I’ve never had, and sure, there have been moments when I’ve thought, What if I just didn’t have to be alive anymore? But I tend to inhabit the characters I write about more or less the same way an actor inhabits a character he’s playing. I take what I know, add whatever I’m able to intuit, and try to work my way under another person’s skin." - from BOMB Magazine, Winter 1999
Revered actress Meryl Streep has appeared in two Cunningham-related films: "The Hours" and "Evening."
"Like my hero Virginia Woolf, I do lack confidence. I always find that the novel I'm finishing, even if it's turned out fairly well, is not the novel I had in my mind. I think a lot of writers must negotiate this, and if they don't admit it, they're not being honest." - from The Guardian, Feb. 4, 2011