The Hours - Context Michael Cunningham was born in...

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ContextMichael Cunningham was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1952 and grew up in Pasadena, California. Aftergraduating from Stanford University with a degree in English Literature, Cunningham received hisM.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first novel,Golden States, appeared in 1984to good reviews, though Cunningham has since dismissed the book in interviews. His second novel,AHome at the End of the World(1990), details the intertwined relationships between two boyhood friendsand the way they cobble together a family that crosses boundaries of age, blood relationships, and sexualidentity. The love triangle plot between a gay man, a straight man, and a straight woman reappears indifferent configurations in the love triangles that reoccur throughoutThe Hours. Cunningham’s thirdnovel,Flesh and Blood(1995), moved away from the intimate depictions of closely knit characters thatcharacterize Cunningham’s earlier works.Flesh and Bloodis a sprawling account of an immigrantfamily’s rise to prosperity and the struggles they encounter across several generations, examining both thefamily’s troubled history and uncertain future.The Hoursappeared in 1998 to great acclaim, acclaim that greatly surprised Cunningham, who sawthebook as a literary piece that would find, at best, a small but appreciative audience. Critics lavished praiseon the book, and Cunningham received both the Pulitzer Prize and a PEN/Faulkner award. In 2002,Stephen Daldry adaptedThe Hoursinto a film. The powerhouse cast featured Meryl Streep, JulianneMoore, and Nicole Kidman (with a prosthetic nose) in an Oscar-winning performance as Virginia Woolf.SinceThe Hours, Cunningham has published a travelogue about Provincetown, Massachusetts, entitledLands End: A Walk in Provincetown(2002). In 2005, he publishedSpecimen Days, a novel that onceagain depicts three interconnected lives. This time, the characters are placed in a futuristic setting,providing twists on the science fiction and film noir genres. Cunningham writes extensively for a varietyof magazines and journals, and currently makes his home in New York City.Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novelMrs. Dallowayserves as the inspiration forThe Hours. The intertwinedstories of the women inThe Hoursclosely follow the narrative threads ofMrs. Dalloway. Woolf’s worktells the story of an upper-class woman in London at the turn of the century as she prepares for a partybeing held in her home that evening. The novel follows Mrs. Dalloway throughout her day. It slips in andout of the consciousness of Mrs. Dalloway’s family, friends, and acquaintances to construct a portrait ofthe title character, her history, and the world she inhabits.Cunningham originally intended to retell the story ofMrs. Dallowayfrom the perspective of a gay manliving in the Chelsea neighborhood of modern-day New York but found that the conceit was notsustainable for the duration of a novel. He decided to include a fictionalized account of a day in the life of

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