Michael Cunningham

Portrait Michael Cunningham
© Hartwig Klappert

Michael Cunningham was born in 1952 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Cunningham grew up in Pasadena, California. He studied English literature at Stanford and went on to a James Michener fellowship at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, graduating with a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa.

Even while still in college, Cunningham had short stories published in »Atlantic Monthly« and »The Paris Review.« He later reworked one of those stories, »White Angel« (1989), into a chapter in his novel »A Home at the End of the World« (1990) and it was also included in the anthology »The Best American Short Stories 1989.« His debut novel »Golden States« was published in 1984. His greatest success so far was the 1998 »The Hours« won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, as well as the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film of the same name in 2002. The novel weaves together the stories of three women influenced by Virginia Woolf’s book »Mrs. Dalloway« – the author herself as she’s writing it in 1923, the wife of a World War II veteran, who reads the book in 1949, and a woman named Clarissa Vaughan in 2001. Just as the life of the three protagonists reflects the situation of Woolf’s title character, Cunningham also restricts the narrative to one day in the life of each woman. He also hews to Woolf‘s stream of consciousness narrative mode, allowed unfiltered expression of the characters inner lives. Taken altogether, it adds up to an »artful weave,« as the book’s German reviewer wrote. The author made a brief foray into non-fiction with »Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown« (2002) before publishing three more novels, with »By Nightfall« (2010) finding particular favor with American critics. His most recent book to be translated into German was »The Snow Queen« (2014, German 2015). In that book, the author, whom a German reviewer from »rbb Inforadio« called a »notably sober storyteller of everyday miracles,« tells the story of brothers Tyler and Barrett, still in the best years of their life, who are not quite ready to accept that they will never fulfill their dreams.

In addition to his novels and short stories, Cunningham has provided forewords and afterwords for other authors, and written two screenplays. He currently teaches creative writing at Yale.