The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most significant awards an American writer can be honored with. Our author of the month, Michael Cunningham, was the recipient of the aforementioned grandiose praise in 1999 for his masterpiece The Hours.
“What lives undimmed in Clarissa’s mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it’s perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.”
If I had to choose just one word to describe Michael Cunningham’s novels I do believe I would go with honesty. There is no space for sugarcoating in his books. Don’t expect his characters to look out for your feelings, for your susceptibilities. They will be so blunt they will hurt you. They will make you think non-stop from sunset to sunrise and back again. They will whisper truths in your ear till you allow your eyes to open and see that change is nothing but acceptance, nothing but a step forward on the long path of discovering and accepting who you truly are.
The writing feels as though the words he uses were created and given such definition and meaning so that they could later on become the sentences that decorate the pages of his novels.
“How, after all, can such a turmoil of hope and fear and lust be inaudible? How do our skulls hold it in?”
You find yourself reading the same passages over and over again, for they are so effortlessly put together, and they convey so much emotion, so much feeling, so much life. They seem to reach out from the pages to caress your face, to wipe away your tears, while you just fall… in love.
“Love, it seems, arrives not only unannounced, but so accidentally, so randomly, as to make you wonder why you, why anyone, believes even fleetingly in laws of cause and effect.”
Reading Michael Cunningham is like being extremely afraid of heights and choosing to go on the world’s greatest and most frightening roller coaster, a roller coaster with such low downs that it makes you wonder whether there is any sense to the word bottom and floor. It’s like being extremely afraid of heights and choosing to go on the world’s greatest and most frightening roller coaster and finding out that the feeling of the wind caressing your face is worth the chills that go down your spine as you queue to go in. Everything loses reference but then suddenly everything makes so much sense…
Reading Michael Cunningham is discovering your zero, your middle, your ground. And then breaking it. And then finding it again.
Reading Michael Cunningham is getting in touch with your humanity. And it’s beautiful. Scary… but beautiful.
He always seems to find the path to the extraordinary, even when starting from the most ordinary spot. I believe that to be one of his many incredible talents: to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. And he invites us to do the same, to look at what surrounds us and what’s inside us, and find our extraordinariness.