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The Hours
by Michael Cunningham

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The Hours is both an hommage to Virginia Woolf and very much its own creature. Even as Michael Cunningham brings his literary idol back to life, he intertwines her story with those of two more contemporary women. One gray suburban London morning in 1923, Woolf awakens from a dream that will soon lead to Mrs. Dalloway. In the present, on a beautiful June day in Greenwich Village, 52-year-old Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for her oldest love, a poet dying of AIDS. And in Los Angeles in 1949, Laura Brown, pregnant and unsettled, does her best to prepare for her husband's birthday, but can't seem to stop reading Woolf. These women's lives are linked both by the 1925 novel and by the few precious moments of possibility each keeps returning to.


Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1 of 21), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Friday, April 14, 2000 11:36 PM Since I was one of the two people who nominated THE HOURS by Michael Cunningham, I'll start off the discussion with some impressions of this fine novel. I didn't want to change a word of it; it was so cleanly written; so Dallowayesque; taking the structural style of Virginia Wolf's sentences (and parenthetical asides) and blending it with her meandering currents of inner then outer realities. So Michael Cunningham cunningly kissed a day in the 1920's to a present day; playing with time; rearranging the outcomes (what if Clarissa had married Sally instead of Richard?); and evoking present day culture as fully as Wolf evoked hers. SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT Anyone who reads these CR monthly selection discussions and hasn't yet finished the book is speeding towards a spoiler as surely as anyone who reads the introduction of a paperback edition of a classic. I thought: he's going to have someone die. Who will it be? Laura Brown for sure. So when Richard slipped out of the window I was shocked. For a moment I thought he slipped inside the room; so the inevitability of Richard's death took me by surprise. I thought he was going to go out with a whimper well beyond the ending of the book. It affected me, that jump. Clarissa's glimpse of his robe billowing behind him as he was still falling haunts me. When Clarissa lead Laura into her apartment I didn't understand. I had not yet figured out that Laura was Richard's mother; that Laura's ongoing story had occurred in another time zone from Clarissa's; that the hours of the day touched the beginning, middle and end of the twentieth century. So, Richard fulfilled Laura's impulse to die while Laura fulfilled her impulse to live. Someone had to be sacrificed in that equation. There was a theme of incongruent dualities or concurrent opposites: "bitter good cheer;" "He looks insane and exalted, both ancient and childish." Many such examples of this ironic pairing throughout. And a playing with time. Richard says: "When you asked if I remember about the party and the ceremony, I thought you meant, did I remember having gone to them. And I did remember. I seem to have fallen out of time." Regarding Clarissa: "She is surprisingly calm…..but at the same time is removed from herself, from the room, as if she is witnessing something that's already happened. It feels like a memory." I was very moved by the book. Robt
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (2 of 21), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 01:30 AM Robert -- FINALLY !! -- I could hardly hold onto my hat on this one -- WOW what a book. I loved the way he not only utilized elements from Mrs. Dalloway for the main stories but used detailed parts of the stories in Mrs. Dalloway to build the same circumstances within his own plot. The trip for those flowers and the descriptions of the flowers themselves and the flowers later discussed -- and all of this tied back to the flower shop and the flowers within the setting of Mrs. Dalloway. All those DETAILS! It was perhaps those very details which allowed his slight variation on VW hours in the day theme. Although VW was also toying with that longer span of time -- one's lifetime -- youth, middle age and the age of dying in Mrs. Dalloway, I felt that Cunningham may have done it a bit more clearly by his use of the separate decades idea. I thought the language was pretty much equal to VW's as far as the descriptive and flowing style. This may relate to his utilization of the details -- but I think it is a factor of his own writing style. This was a pleasant surprise of a book -- I was really afraid of how it would relate to VW book -- afraid it might be TOO close and afraid it wouldn't be close enough. I am glad to say it was a perfect blend of similarities and distinctive differences. I also liked that use of the opposing extremes and the time confusions such as Richard's confusion over the award and the party. I thought they served to point up the unreality of the construct of time itself. I have been doing a bit of pondering on this business of measure time and calendars and natural time lately and the very title The Hours and the use of the clocks sounding in both Cunningham's work and in Mrs. D. (which of course was titled The Hours while it was being written) gives one this juxtaposition of invented time overlaid on real time -- the cycles of seasons, of human lives and of nature (midlife/menopausal age in the case of the two Clarissas and in VW's case as well). SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER********************* I really almost blew this -- I hope I didn't blow this for anyone and I even went back and edited the note but that wasn't enough in some instances! This book got off to a somewhat rocky start for me for some reason -- timing perhaps rather than anything to do with the book itself -- ALTHOUGH I think it might also have had something to do with the Prologue -- starting off with VW's suicide may have been a bit too much for me. I had difficulty keeping it from seeping into the VW parts early on -- but of course -- it turned out to be the very reason I think he did that -- to get us to let it seep into the back of our minds -- to keep that awareness there. But once I got into the stories, I was off and gulped the whole thing down and nearly choked on that ending because I hadn't seen it coming at all. I guess I had the time thing figured out but somehow I just didn't pick up this possibility at all. I think Cunningham's characters are also more time delineated -- the age span is more clearly differentiated in The Hours than it was in Mrs. Dalloway -- although I think the characters in Mrs. D. cover the same wide spectrum of an period of historical time, I think one has to be much more meticulous in attending to the details she offers the reader in getting them placed as to their age/generational position. This is a bit clearer in The Hours -- except for that twist which makes it clear that it wasn't all that clear -- hmmmmm? Good work definitely. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (3 of 21), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 07:17 AM It's rare for me to find a book that makes me want to read it again right away, but this time I found two. I don't want to read anything else (even though I have, but not much) because I don't want to disengage from this world. I was particularly impressed by the way Cunningham portrayed Mrs. Brown. Just the right touch of being out of touch. She so much wanted to be totally involved in her life, and did all the right things, made the cake, loved her child, but it was like she was placed on the wrong planet. Did anyone notice the mother was named "Laura" and the son was named "Richie"? Even though I'm sure Cunningham didn't do it on purpose (or maybe he did) but it did put me in mind of the mother and son on the Dick Van Dyck show (not a very Woolfian allusion). And even though the kid's name was Richie, I didn't put two and two together either. It wasn't like Cunningham was hiding it from us. Robert, I thought your comments were brilliant. And Dottie, I almost started the thread way ahead of time, because I knew a lot of people had finished. As it turned out, I read both books way too soon to be able to remember them well enough to discuss them properly. Cunningham did an extraordinary job weaving the threads together without it seeming forced. The Hours was both more and less than Mrs. Dalloway. There was more of a feeling of plot, of lives intermingling, of things happening. The writing is splendid, but there is less poetry, less mystery. So on the whole it balanced out perfectly. Sherry
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (4 of 21), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 07:27 AM Sherry -- I am re-reading Mrs. D. as I have said over there in CC but also am diving into The Hours -- which is one reason re-reading Mrs.D. is going too slowly. But the comparing is just too irresistible! I first went through and noted all of the direct quoting I could locate in The Hours and then started looking for those details -- the flower shop thing and others like that which are lifted directly from VW's book into MC's book but with all the details changed just ever so slightly or ever so drastically -- it is a fascinating little puzzle to see what MC actually did and did not do that ties his book to her book. Absolutely intriguing reading -- both of them. Am SO glad these were read like this -- in tandem -- here. Looking forward to more input on The Hours. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (5 of 21), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 08:59 AM Joy in the morning! I've had a hard time delaying a discussion on The Hours. What a book, especially when read in tandem with Mrs. Dalloway. Some of my first questions while reading were, "Why did Cunningham write The Hours? Was it to complement and expand on Mrs. Dalloway? Did he feel the need to clarify the issues and conclusions raised in Dalloway? Was he trying to compliment the style of Woolf? Did Cunningham jumble the characters as means of exploring those in Mrs. Dalloway?" I have to wonder if my reading would have been different had I not ever read Mrs. Dalloway. The book would definitely stand on its own, but its connection to Dalloway adds so much to its literary significance. SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER I think he opened with Virginia for several reasons. Cunningham, like his reader, is enamored of her writing and fascinated with her tug of war between living in the moment and the trials of fighting to matter, to make a difference. Also, her suicide sets the tone, and warns the reader to listen up and look for connections in the characters to Virginia. I think each character in Dalloway and The Hours represents a component of Woolf's personality. The connection and partiality to Clarissa is obvious. Septimus/Richard are her angst driven side. Laura Brown is the part that plods onward, despite not really wanting to. Richard Dalloway/Sally are her desire for a safe, comfortable lifestyle - parties and all. I did not catch the early hint that Richie is Richard. Looking back, it's quite obvious, given the child's extreme sensitivity and anxiety regarding his mother. I think I was too busy comparing/contrasting Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours. I was also caught up in looking for parallels to Virginia Woolf's story. Also, I thought the point of Laura's character was to look for the ties back to Woolf. Kay, who is relishing this discussion
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (6 of 21), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 10:03 AM Kay, you asked why Cunningham wrote The Hours. Maybe one reason was to explore what would happen if the characters had made different choices. Mrs. Brown chose to live but leave her family, Clarissa chose Sally over Richard. I loved the way aspects of different characters were mixed and matched with both the Mrs. Dalloway of the book and VW herself. Sherry
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (7 of 21), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 10:18 AM Robert, Kay, Dottie & Sherry: I’m enjoying your comments on what I thought was a fine, fine book. BTW, I’ve got an excellent interview with Cunningham, done just after the Pulitzer good news, that appeared in the July/August 1999 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. If your library doesn’t carry it, drop me a note and I’ll mail you a photocopy. Here’s a section I found of interest: In discussing what led him to write such an unorthodox novel, Cunningham confesses to an obsession with Woolf and MRS. DALLOWAY that began in high school. “I’ve just had this thing with MRS. DALLOWAY since I was very young, and it has always felt like a part of me,” he explains, admittedly baffled by an unflagging passion to write about it. “I don’t exactly know why. I don’t know if it was the greatest book every written. I don’t know if it’s the greatest book Virginia Woolf ever wrote. But I read it when I was pretty young and it just stuck with me like nothing else has, to the point that it felt as much like something for me to write about as my childhood, my first love affair, or all the more traditional material we’re supposed to draw upon as novelists.” Cunningham originally envisioned his version of MRS. DALLOWAY as a social commentary on contemporary gay life, with its protagonist a 52-year-old gay man living in Manhattan. But after three years of writing, and “a lot of different drafts and a few major false starts,” he ended up with three female protagonists and a story that, among other things, is a paean to the palliative effects of reading and writing during times of psychic pain... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (8 of 21), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 10:37 AM Spoiler Spoiler Interesting, Dale, as I felt that was a central message of this work. Though touched on in Dalloway, the point that our struggle to make a difference, to carve out an unforgettable niche in Life, and knowing that we cannot, is what both motivates us and, at the same time, is what drives us to distraction. We cannot come close to the effect that living the moment has in our everyday lives. Richard voices this view, "What I wanted to do seemed simple. I wanted to create something alive and shocking enough that it could stand beside a morning in somebody's life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that. What foolishness" That comment continues to resonate in my mind, and is, I think, the essence of Woolf and Cunningham's take on Life.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (9 of 21), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 10:38 AM I loved this book. And I barely managed to finish Mrs. D. Ever since I finished TH a few days ago, I've been mulling over why I liked it so much better than Mrs. D. I know VW's considered a great writer, but I just can't warm up to her writing or care about her characters. I couldn't put TH down. When Septimus skewered himself on the decorative ironwork, I thought, "how gory", but I really didn't give a damn. When Richard took the dive I was horrified. My question to all of you is, is MC as great or a greater writer than VW? Is her fame due as much to her innovation as it is to her actual writing? Or did MC's writing just succeed with me better because it has the flavor of contemporary times, not in setting or events so much as in the actual writing? Ruth, who seems to have been the only person who guessed almost immediately that Richie was Richard
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (10 of 49), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 11:23 AM Oh God I'm stepping into this, I realize. I enjoyed this novel, but I must confess I was not that mesmerized by Cunningham's writing. Some of it was actually fairly shoddy. One of the biggest flaws in this book was the section where Louis visits Clarissa in a mirroring of Peter's surprise visit to Dalloway. For example: Louis, the old object of desire, has always, as it turns out, been this: a drama teacher, a harmless person. "Well, now," he says. [What an opening statement by a "drama teacher," but it is essentially "harmless."] He and Clarissa embrace. When Clarissa pulls back she sees that Louis's myopic gray eyes are moist. [Of course, he's got a cry like Peter later on, Dear Reader] He has always been prone to tears. [Let's set it up, Reader] Clarissa, the more sentimental one, the more indignant, never seems to cry at all, though she often wants to. [Poor Clarissa, she wants to cry but can't. Thanks for that note] "When did you get into town?" she asks. [Small talk] ""Day before yesterday. I was out walking, and I realized I was on your street." [Happens all the time, right?] "I'm so happy to see you." "I'm happy to see you too," Louis says, and his eyes fill again [For the love of God! Didn't we establish he's a crybaby already?] "Your timing is incredible. [Thanks to Woolf and Cunningham, of course] We're having a party for Richard tonight." [Oh right! I forgot] "Really? [No 'rally']. What's the occasion?" And ad infinitum. I'm sorry to do this, but this isn't good writing. The dialogue is staid, the plotting is shoddy. When all else fails, hit 'em over the head with a literary hammer. I loved the opening sequence and at first the Dalloway mirroring was engrossing. But towards the final third Cunningham loses steam and then just throws everything out the window (pardon the pun). I think he had a wonderful idea and he executed it nicely. But I am not calling this work a "classic" yet. I think this novel only illustrates how superior a writer Woolf is to Cunningham. Cunningham can pay homage, but I don't find he convinces me he is capable of writing Mrs. Dalloway. Alright. You may fling your mud my way--I'm ducking. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (11 of 21), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 11:59 AM Now, now, Dan. We have to talk. My initial impression of TH was, "Why on earth am I reading a modern re-write of Mrs. Dalloway, and why would a re-hash of the same material win a Pulitzer? I was a tad impatient with the quoting of all those passages from MD, and wanted to ask, "Are you ever going to get on with it? Are you simply re-writing what's already been done so well?" However, I soon became engrossed with comparing the styles of the two authors, and the points they were making. This brings me back to the question: Would I have found this book as interesting if I knew nothing of Mrs. Dalloway? I'm beginning to see that a good part of my attraction to TH was due to having just read Dalloway, though I did appreciate the clearly stated message. My impressions of MD were confirmed in TH. Your asides to the dialogue between Clarissa and Louis are quite funny, but I have to admit I didn't pay much attention to the conversation when I first read it. My mind was busy looking for comparisons/contrasts to Mrs. Dalloway. I did find MC's version easier to follow. Did anyone read this book first, without ever having read Mrs. Dalloway? Kay
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (12 of 21), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 11:41 AM Ruth- I think MC's writing is clearer, and reaches a defined conclusion, whereas VW's version seems to ask the question more than it attempts to give an answer. I enjoyed both styles - Woolf's for the ethereal sense of reality I felt, and Cunningham's for the intriguing mystery of how and why Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa were connected into one story. His stream of consciousness was easier for me to follow, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the simple breakdown of chapters that made it easier for me to sort out. Kay
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (13 of 21), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 02:02 PM Dan, To me Cunningham's writing is excellent. Even the conversation you quoted above sounds plausible and real to my ear. TH seems to contain the essence of present day New York life in such a slim volume of words. I like the telling choices of the simplest of conversation, the common pleasantries that border on the banal, that are then expanded upon by the thoughts behind them. THE HOURS uses MRS. DALLOWAY as a shape, a vessel, in which to contain its own fluid reality and I never confused the coffee for the cup. Robt
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (14 of 21), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 02:31 PM I agree with Kay and Robert. Cunningham is a superior writer which shows up not only in his use of language but in the organization of the book. The interlacing chapters show a careful use of his art. The people who said they like him better than VW have a point in that Cunningham is much better organized and to the point. VW's merit consists in being an original and avant guard writer. Ernie
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (15 of 21), Read 20 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 02:57 PM Dan -- I will have to vote with Robert on this conversation thing -- I thought this was something which was just a superficial thing -- the conversation was just that while under neath was the whole story -- the whole tale of Clarissa and Richard and Sally and Louis and the intertwined tales of all these lives. -- But conversations are stilted and banal and downright stupid -- no matter what might be going on "for real". I think this is more obvious in The Hours than it was in Mrs. D. just because the modern day language usage is shifted so drastically from that of the early 20's when Mrs. D. took place. And the overall tale -- just doesn't hang by these conversations anyway -- the aura of the book is like Mrs. D. -- the sum total of all the parts -- the bits and pieces are important but need not be perfect -- what is perfect is the result. I don't know if I would equate MC's writing with that of VW but I think I could have read this without having read Mrs. D. -- though like others here -- I am SO glad I read these this way. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (16 of 21), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 03:45 PM Reading the comments here are almost as enjoyable as reading both books. I read MD years ago. Recently, I read TH & then MD again, in that order. My reaction to the first few pages of MD this time was Oh, this is the real thing. That sounds like I'm taking something away from Cunningham, and I don't mean to. I really loved TH, and I loved the idea of it. It was clear to me that Cunningham drew the ultimate tribute to VW with this work. SPOILER ************************* I did figure that Richie was Richard. I was fully expecting many connections in this book. One connection was the kiss. In TH, VW kisses her sister on the lips, and decides that a kiss will figure prominently in MD. Laura Brown kisses her neighbor, and it seems to be a pivotal moment for her. I too, thought that Laura Brown would commit suicide, because I connected her with VW, for some reason. Also, I think there was a reference to Richard's writing always having a mother who killed herself. As for the conversation you quoted, Dan. That's just the whole point of the two Clarissa characters, isn't it? She (they) have settled for a life that others view as banal. She hasn't quite measured up. Ruth, I'm not sure why I like VW so much - perhaps because she dared to write so differently. I was first "turned on" to her by Carolyn Heilbrun's Writing a Different Life. I suspect that it is these differences that either hit you or they don't. And in Cunningham's case, they hit him in a big way. MAP
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (17 of 21), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 05:24 PM I keep comparing my reaction to reading Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours with my reaction to reading Great Expectations and Jack Maggs. When I finished GE, I was on an absolute high from my time spent with a great storyteller. JM sent me crashing to the floor, wondering if I might have liked it better if I'd read it a few years later. When I started The Hours, I was still wrapped in Mrs. Dalloway's world and it kept me there, enhancing the experience, asking "what if?", thinking about all the dynamics of the relationships. There is no question in my mind that Woolf is the better writer. The poetry, the ability to catch a little nugget of truth in a phrase is simply not in Cunningham's writing. But, the weaving of characters and plot, the ability to absolutely "get" the perspective of certain characters so perfectly is very, very good. I was particularly surprised at his accuracy with the Laura Brown character. The last chapter in which she is getting ready for bed, knowing exactly what her husband would do when she entered the bedroom and her reaction to it when she did was Cunningham at his best, I thought. I also liked some of his moments of philosophy and observation though they didn't have the ringing eeriness that Woolf left in me. One of my favorite lighter ones was in that same Brown chapter when she says: This is probably how it must feel to be a ghost. It's a little like reading, isn't it?--that same sensation of knowing people, settings, situations, without playing any particular part beyond that of the willing observer. Constant Readers as voyeurs? Barb
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (18 of 21), Read 20 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 05:31 PM Ruth & All: As for my two cents, I can read Woolf’s diaries and letters almost anytime with much pleasure, just to enjoy her dry, self-deprecating sense of humor and her brilliant mind and use of language at play. Sort of reminds me of a fine painter who for the moment turns his/her immense abilities on an applique towards a gift apron for a friend, or paper dolls for a favorite niece. VW’s fiction, though, is so ambitious and pedal-to-the-metal in nature that I have to be extremely clear-headed, in the mood, and Lord knows what else just to hang on, like (excuse the mixed metaphors) rafting, mentally and emotionally, the most violent of rapids. I go for weeks and months without having the mental energy to tap into the full enormity of what she’s doing, but when it’s good, it’s very, very good. Main-lining undiluted prose fiction by Virginia Woolf is, at its peak, a more transcendent reading experience than I’ve ever had...and I only discovered her writing, alas, when I was in my 40s. Cunningham would be the first to tell you (and does, in his interview) that he would be very uncomfortable to be placed in the league of his subject. I found his story gripping, magical, at times lyrical, but...like Dan...some of his prose, when seen under the microscope, is pretty darned lame. BUT...Cunningham also addresses this subject--writer as over-reacher--in his interview, in a couple of paragraphs I’ll try to find and post tomorrow. >>Dale in Ala., who may also provide a shocking self-revelation on the same subject (insert ominous cello note...{G})
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (19 of 21), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 09:08 PM For me, Cunningham's novel is an homage to Mrs. Dalloway, a little book in which he peers into the intricacies of Woolf's novel by setting it in familiar territory and with multiple points of view. It is the sincerest form of literary flattery--an attempt to imitate as well as elucidate the complexities of another's work. However, Cunningham does not really go into the "stream of consciousness" as such--his "stream of consciousness" technique is "easier to follow" because it isn't there. There is a strong narrative presence in Cunningham's work, and that presence is not afraid to step into the novel's action and point out a thing or two so that the reader can avoid confusion and frustration, such as the fact that Louis is prone to tears and that Clarissa "wants to cry but cannot." The absence of such a guide is what give Woolf's prose such intimacy--we are given the task of interpreting the world almost solely through a character's thoughts and sensations. Here is the initial conversation between Peter and Clarissa, the conversation mirrored so poorly by Cunningham: "Heavens, the front-door bell!" exclaimed Clarissa, staying her needle. Roused, she listened... Now the brass knob slipped. Now the door opened, and in came--for a single second she could not remember what he was called! so surprised she was to see him, so glad, so shy, so utterly taken aback to have Peter Walsh come to her unexpectedly in the morning! (She had not read his letter.)[Ooops! An infernal authorial guide parenthetically speaking--weak, very weak. For shame Virginia!]. "And how are you?" said Peter Walsh, positively trembling; taking both her hands, kissing both her hands. She's grown older, he thought, sitting down. I shan't tell her anything about it, he thought, for she's grown older. She's looking at me, he thought, a sudden embarrassment coming over him, though he had kissed her hands. I sincerely believe Cunningham's homage is a great companion to Woolf's Dalloway, but I question whether "conversational banality" is realism or something else. Lord knows, whenever it comes to writing, it is generally the dialogue that always baffles me and leaves me admiring those who can articulate dialogue so well. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (20 of 21), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, April 15, 2000 10:32 PM Barb, You quoted the exact phrases that struck me so much: This is probably how it must feel to be a ghost. It's a little like reading, isn't it?--that same sensation of knowing people, settings, situations, without playing any particular part beyond that of the willing observer. Constant readers as voyeurs, indeed! This section definitely made me think. Laura didn't want to live life. She wanted to escape it by retreating into a world of books. In her illness, she was very like Virginia Woolf, but she lacked her ability to create. Woolf wrote some of the most original prose of the twentieth century. Laura spent her life as a librarian. Wouldn't you have liked some insight into her mind at the end of the book, almost 50 years after she had left her family, instead of only viewing her through Clarissa's eyes? Was her escape worth it? More to the point, did she have a choice? I liked The Hours very much and found it well deserving of the Pulitzer. Cunningham lacks Woolf's stunning knack for prose poetry, but then so does almost everyone else. Woolf writes sentences I get lost in, even when I try to reread them. I find her worthwhile, but daunting. Cunninham is far more readable. I care more about his characters because he presents them more clearly and because they seem to be so much more involved with each other. I like the Clarissa in The Hours, for example, much more than the one in Mrs. Dalloway because there is much more to her. She has a life outside of her home and her relationship to her spouse (Sally); she does her best to be good to Richard, who is her best friend. Likewise, I care far more when Richard dies than Septimus because he is still connected to a world that exists outside of himself. The structure of The Hours fascinated me. Cunningham did a marvelous job of playing off of the themes and characters in Woolf's book and intertwining the three parts of his own story. Some incidents in Mrs. Dalloway were clearly recreated, for example Sally (who resembles Richard Dalloway much more than the first Sally) bringing home the flowers to Clarissa out of a desire to show how much she loves her, or the upsetting relationship between Clarissa's daughter and the dour doctrinaire in both books. But this is certainly no rewrite of Mrs. Dalloway. The connections made the book more interesting for me. I think I would have also been very impressed with the book if I had read it on its own. Of course, it is too late to know for sure. {G}
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (21 of 21), Read 4 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 09:02 AM I found these comments on style from Cunningham (who teaches writing at Columbia's grad school) to be very revealing: Cunningham cautions writers against being too preoccupied with perfection: “I have known writers over the years, enormously talented, who are so self-conscious about it, who are so terrified of ever writing a bad sentence, that they can’t write anything at all. I think a certain fearlessness in the face of your own ineptitude is a useful tool.”... “But I find that all the really interesting writing students need to be told is to keep working and trust their instincts. What makes your writing different from anything else you’ve ever read is part of its strength and not something that needs to be reformed out of it. What the world needs more than anything is brand-new stories unlike anything it’s ever seen before.” He believes that there should be “something seriously wrong with the first draft of anything,” which he takes as a sign that the writer is pushing it, trying something new. “I worry that workshops will encourage people to produce stories that can’t be criticized,” he says. “And if there’s nothing to hate, then there probably isn’t going to be all that much to love. Of course, the finished project has a different integrity, a different level of consistency unto itself. I’m more interested in the early drafts being out of control and a little wild. “I try to remind my students that most of the editors I know are not opening that envelope hoping to find another story like the ten thousand they’ve already seen. They’re hoping to find something alarming, brilliant, and unprecedented. If you want to write a conventional story, then that’s what you should write. But if you want to write something else, I say go! “You want to think only about the good of the work, and if somebody wants to publish it, then fine,” he says. “I try as best I can to create an atmosphere where it feels safe to fail.” *** "A certain fearlessness in the face of your own ineptitude." Yeah! I really like this guy. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (22 of 38), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 10:52 AM Dan- I think you nailed the distinction between Cunningham and Woolf. Whereas he tends to tell us, she shows us, letting us analyze for ourselves. Perhaps that is why I feel closer to Mrs. Dalloway as a reader. I had to pay very close attention and engage intensely with her prose. I will read Cunningham again sometime, but I am more eager to read more of Woolf. Kay
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (23 of 38), Read 33 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 10:58 AM I have to say I am still a tad disturbed that The Hours is based on the concept in Mrs. Dalloway. Though I thoroughly enjoyed it, and could not begin to write a complement to MD as well as Cunningham did, I still tend to view it as a re-writing of the same basic story. I want to read his next book to see if he conceives of an original story line. Kay
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (24 of 38), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 11:24 AM Kay: Speaking of Cunningham's other work, THE HOURS is his fourth published novel. He has apparently disowned his first, GOLDEN GATE, which is out of print and not even mentioned in the bios of his subsequent books. His second novel, A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD (1990), got excellent reviews. It's described as "a thoroughly modern novel about a bisexual love triangle between two men and a woman. Exploring contemporary redefinitions of family and friendship, the book earned him praise as 'a writer of great gifts.'" His third, FLESH AND BLOOD (1995) is called by an interviewer "a 465-page Greek family soap opera, which was found to be a tad too ambitious and contrived by some critics." No word yet about what he plans to do as an encore to THE HOURS, but it's bound to be a psychological hurdle after this one's success. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (25 of 38), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 11:41 AM The chapter where Laura makes the cake with Ritchie stays with me. It seems to go along with the theme of expressing the commonplace with rich undercurrents beneath it. Laura has epiphanal moments of domestic bliss while making it, yet, it's not right; it's not what she wants and she throws it out much like she does the marriage. Her trip to the LA hotel is also memorable for its quiet desperation. Cunningham captured that hotel feeling just right; that soothing anonymity mixed with loneliness. I felt her relief just to have the chance to read. And it makes sense that she would realize how costly it was for her to read in private. And when she goes to bed with her husband her private reaction was: well, no reading tonight. Richard seemed like a real person to me. His comments were offhandedly insightful and daffy, just like a demented poet would be. Sad, resigned, present, absent and all together lively. His portrait made the whole thing meaningful to me. How one cannot erase from the equation of life the really painful events, such as the desertion of an adored mother, because it was certainly an essential ingredient to his poetry, the catalyst for his success, the final straw in his demise. These events shape us and I am challenged to ask: are they the enemy? Or are they the seeds of our contribution? And also are those who cause the pain really the enemy, the villain? Perhaps it's just a dynamic of cross purposes, an inevitability of existence. Anyway, I love it when a book gets me to examine my own life. Robt
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (26 of 38), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 11:44 AM I just ran across this quote, which I think is very apropros to both authors' themes in THE HOURS and MRS. DALLOWAY. It's used as the epigraph of Raymond Carver's story collection, WHERE I'M CALLING FROM: We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives not perfect it in our lives to come. --Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (27 of 38), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 12:45 PM Robt: I loved the cake-making scene in THE HOURS, as well. Kitchens (and mothers and sons) seem to occur frequently in Woolf’s fiction, such as this wonderful opening page of her novel TO THE LIGHTHOUSE... *** “Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow,” said Mrs. Ramsay. “But you’ll have to be up with the lark,” she added. To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled, the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night’s darkness and a day’s sail, within touch. Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallize and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy. The wheelbarrow, the lawnmower, the sound of poplar trees, leaves whitening before rain, rooks cawing, brooms knocking, dresses rustling--all these were so coloured and distinguished in his mind that he already had his private code, his secret language, though he appeared the image of stark and uncompromising severity, with his high forehead and his fierce blue eyes, impeccably candid and pure, frowning slightly at the sight of human frailty, so that his mother, watching him guide his scissors neatly round the refrigerator, imagined him all red and ermine on the Bench or directing a stern and momentous enterprise in some crisis of public affairs. “But,” said his father, stopping in front of the drawing room window, “it won’t be fine.” Had there been an axe handy, or a poker, any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (28 of 38), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 01:04 PM Robt, Richard was the heart of this novel, the person who really made me care. What do you make of his relationship with Clarissa? Was she in some sense a substitute for the mother who deserted him? Did it strike you as odd that a woman would be the deepest love of his life? Or is that an incorrect description of their relationship? Laura touched me, but she is probably too close to my own mother (without the literary inclinations) for me to appreciate her. I was particularly struck by the way both she and Woolf felt like they needed to give a performance of being normal. The psychic cost must have been tremendous. And I love your question as to whether we are made or undone by the painful events in our past. In Richard's case, Laura could well have been the unintentional catalyst for his best poetry (Ruth, I wanted you to know that I resisted saying "talent"), as well as the cause of his greatest suffering. In either case, Cunningham makes it clear that Laura could not help being who she was. She give it her best shot, but in the end escape was the only way she could survive. Great quote from Kundera, Dale. I love that man. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (29 of 38), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 02:56 PM I loved the cake-making scene, too. And Laura's feeling of being there in this domestic life, and yet not being there. A bit like sleep-walking. It really captured the way I used to feel at that age, which is probably why it struck me so hard. Do you suppose MC was an unfulfilled housewife in a previous incarnation? Ruth
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (30 of 38), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 04:37 PM Reading about Laura's tryst w/ Virginia Woolf in a fancy hotel was very fascinating. I, too, sometimes feel that domestic obligations and such take away too much reading time. When I have a chance, I'll park the car and read in a parking lot or browse a used book store. When I arrive home late, I exclaim, "You wouldn't believe the traffic on I-10 this evening..." Yes, we are evil people, each and every one of us, at heart. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (31 of 38), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, April 16, 2000 05:42 PM Laura's hiding in a "room of her own" touched me too. I expect that desire to escape is inherent in all of us with family responsibilities, whether we signed up for those responsibilities or they were foisted on us. The details of that chapter seemed very real and personal. I think Ruth is right. Michael Cunningham is really a '50's housewife reborn. Sherry
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (32 of 38), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 12:42 AM I read this book today and have not yet started Mrs. Dalloway. I guess I should duck, but I was disappointed. Which may be attributable to my general mood, since most books and movies lately have disappointed me. That said, The Hours was an interesting, quick read, but lacked the type of depth I look for in a really good novel. Neither did it have great humor, or take chances, or use words with great artistry, or any of the other things that can substitute for depth for me. I intended to say that The Hours reminded me of light glancing off of water - pretty, and ephemeral. But I decided the insubstantiality of a reflection was more apropos, given that Cunningham was attempting a mirror of another, I hope better book. Theresa, being very cranky and picky this week
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (33 of 38), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 01:29 AM Theresa -- Oh goody -- now we get to hear about things from someone who reads these two the other way around -- are you going to read Mrs. D. now or not at all? I hope you read it now -- I would love to know if there would be any transference of what is contained within The Hours into reading Mrs. D. -- which I think we have all concluded here is the better of these books (even Michael Cunningham says so). I truly think that a large part of the enjoyment of the MC book does come from having knowledge of Mrs. Dalloway -- no matter the disclaimer to the contrary in that one review in the front of it. I mean -- there isn't any way to read the book with some knowledge of Mrs. D. -- the readers of MC's book will at least know the parts quoted and the thoughts and real life activities behind the writing of Mrs. D. because this info is included right there in The Hours! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (34 of 38), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 07:50 AM Ann- RE: your question about the relationship between Richard and Clarissa I have to wonder if her daughter is also his? I don't think that issue is ever raised in TH, is it? That would create a bond. It's also possible that what Richard is so attracted to is her zest for living the moment, and her ability to hang in there. His mother could enjoy the moment, but could not find the inner resources to stay the mile. I also empathized with Laura, and lived much of my life acting a role of what I thought I should be. It was a precarious day to day existence, and required me to walk an emotional and intellectual tightrope for 40 some years. I was fortunate to have a safety net when the inevitable fall came. Laura did not have that luxury. Her only recourse for survival was to leave the confines of the needs and expectations of others. She did what she had to in order to survive and enjoy what moments she could. This reminds me of the movie, "Kramer v. Kramer." Meryl Streep's character was living beyond her ability to cope, and had to leave in order to find her life. At the time it came out, I empathized strongly with her, and yet was so angry at her. If I had to continue playing a role, why couldn't she? The parallels between Mrs. Kramer and Laura are striking. Kay
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (35 of 38), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 10:50 AM A few more comments from Cunningham’s interview, re: being compared to Woolf... *** Cunningham readily admits to his “terror of trying to invoke the ghost of a dead genius.” “Would I just look like such a tiny little talent if I stood next to somebody this enormous?” he says, revisiting the hypothetical horrors that nagged him throughout the project. “Surely invoking her, trying to write dialogue for her, putting thoughts in her head, along with excerpting passages from MRS. DALLOWAY would only serve to illustrate--in my worst fantasies--the difference between real writing like what Woolf did and the sort of hack writing like what I’m doing. But eventually I decided, Well, maybe it will, but who cares?”... Although he never worried that his voice would be subsumed by the master’s, he continually struggled with almost debilitating doubts. But, he says, “I reach that with every book--where it just seems like you’re not a writer, you can’t do it, maybe it was a stupid idea. It’s a sign that the book is taking on its own life, becoming bigger than what you had imagined.” To prevent being overwhelmed, he wrote the manuscript in “clumps and stages,” showing numerous drafts to his partner of 11 years, psychologist Ken Corbett, whom Cunningham describes as his “muse” and the first person he shows anything. But the story was slow to take shape, and he struggled long and hard to find “the right balance and symmetry” of what was to become an elegantly braided narrative of three dissimilar women. And while Cunningham’s previous two novels also employed alternating narrations, they didn’t have THE HOURS’ wide-ranging variations in chronology and pace. Yet, in the end THE HOURS accommodates the shifts more seamlessly than any book Cunningham has written before. “A lot of the time I was writing, I didn’t even know what I was doing,” he says about the lack of literary predecessors he was able to draw on. “I’d think that this book is just about nothing. It’s one of the hardest things about the process for a lot of us. There’s a point at which it just feels like a huge mess, a failure and a shambles, and not about anything at all. But you just keep going anyway.” One technique Cunningham used to “keep going” was to dramatize his doubts, evident in the novel’s passages describing Woolf’s writing day. “I wanted to get at the actual sensation of a good writing day, when one is fortunate enough to be having one,” Cunningham explains. “As most writers know, it’s one of the greatest feelings there is. It’s rare and horribly elusive but every now and then, there it is, where you know what to do next and you make something. There’s nothing to compare to it. And Woolf wrote about this.” (from Poets & Writers, July/August 1999) *** >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (36 of 38), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 12:25 PM Kay: Julia, Clarissa's daughter, was a product of donor sperm. The anonymous nature of Julia's father is mentioned several times during the course of the novel. If I am not answering the question you posed, forgive me. Spoiler Alert Theresa: I agree with you and love your "light on water" analogy. The best thing about Cunningham's novel was its relationship with Virgina Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway, and if, like you, you never read Mrs. Dalloway then the daring cannot be discerned. There are several well written passages--the opening segment describing Woolf's suicide as well as the moving segment where Richard goes out the window. In fact, that passage was so well written I could actually feel the plummet in the depths of my soul. The description and Clarissa's reaction were astoundingly rendered. Cunningham seems to excel at descriptions of suicides and falters at real life and emotions. Interesting. Very interesting. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (37 of 38), Read 5 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 05:09 PM Kay, I also wondered about Richard being the father, but I think that Dan is right that the text refers to an "anonymous" sperm donor. I would never blame Laura for what she did. I think your analysis of her is right on the mark. I would very much have liked a little insight into her thoughts at the age of 80, and I wonder if Cunningham toyed with that at all. Apparently she had maintained contact with her son even though she couldn't raise him. It is hard for me to imagine that she ever found happiness. What do you think? Dan, you wrote that Cunningham was not good at real life and emotions. What did you think about Laura? I thought Cunningham did a very good job with these facets of her story. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (38 of 38), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 05:37 PM Ann- No, I do not think Laura ever found happiness. I think her guilt at needing to leave in order to survive haunted her. It would be interesting to know how she would answer, "Was it worth it to leave?" I imagine her guilt at needing to leave so that she didn't commit suicide overwhelmed the rest of her life. Spoiler Which would have been better for Richie? A mother that stayed, but was unable to connect, or a mother that left, perhaps thinking that would be better than staying and eventually committing suicide? Would her staying have given him any chance at all? I do not know. What do you think? Kay
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (39 of 47), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 07:14 PM What would have been better for Richie? Well, Kay, having grown up with a chronically depressed mother and having experienced the illness myself, that's a challenging one for me to answer. Cunningham made things pretty clear cut. Laura had to leave one way or the other, either by physically removing herself from the home or by killing herself. Of course, I believe that leaving her family was preferable. Richie was going to be hurt in either case, but at least Laura would survive. In real life, the choices usually aren't so cut and dried. I saw Laura as very much the Virginia Woolf counterpart, but without any of the compensation of her creative gifts. Unfortunately, Laura lived at a time when the medical treatments for chronic depression were not very good. If she had lived today, she would have had better choices. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (40 of 47), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 09:34 PM Ann: I really was thinking of Cunningham's "Louis" scene when I mentioned Cunningham was having problems depicting characters. I concede that Laura is a fascinating character full of realistic emotions. I loved the cake episode, especially Laura's thoughts during the ordeal, as well as her day in the hotel. Plot Spoiler Though it is off the subject somewhat, I'll say again Cunningham's depiction of Richard's fall was eerily accurate. I recently saw some footage of two people who tumbled off a cliff to their deaths during a failed rescue attempt. Their falls echo Cunningham's passage: He seems so certain, so serene, that she briefly imagines it hasn't happened at all. She reaches the window in time to see Richard still in flight, his robe billowing, and it seems even now as if it might be a minor accident, something reparable. She sees him touch the ground five floors below, sees him kneel on the concrete, see his head strike, hears the sound he makes, and yet she believes, at least for another moment, leaning out over the sill, that he will stand up again, groggy perhaps, winded, but still himself, still whole, still able to speak. This is an exceptional passage, as Robert noted earlier. But the way Cunningham emphasizes the gross horror of the event by depicting a "soft" landing, the Richard "touches" the ground, "kneels," and Clarissa "sees his head strike, hears the sound he makes." It is as horrifyingly real as the video of the people falling off the cliff. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (41 of 47), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 09:52 PM Ann, You asked: "What do you make of [Richard's] relationship with Clarissa? Was she in some sense a substitute for the mother who deserted him? Did it strike you as odd that a woman would be the deepest love of his life? Or is that an incorrect description of their relationship?" Richard's relationship with Clarissa seems natural to me. Speaking as a gay man, I have several deeply significant relationships with women that have lasted decades and I don't think this is atypical. It's a relief to not have sex as part of the equation as I imagine is the case in same sex relationships between heterosexual friends. It's just not about sex and yet deeply connected and full of love. I don't know whether or not Richard had other relationships as deep as his love for Clarissa, but it doesn't strike me as odd if it were the deepest. I don't think the deepest relationship of one's life need be a romantic one, although it probably most often is. Often gay men create new "families" consisting of friends and lovers as often we choose to remove ourselves from hostile backgrounds and flee to gay-friendlier places. These new relationships sometimes take on a dual role of friend AND family and the loyalties can be intense. Not that Richard's childhood home was necessarily homophobic, although it is not unreasonable that his father, a WW II vet in the late 40's, 50's and 60's might be hostile to homosexuality during Richard's youth. I would say Clarissa appeared to me to be like new family perhaps substituting for his mother and maybe more. Certainly when a gay man gets AIDS it soon becomes clear who his "family" is. When I got AIDS I was fortunate to be embraced by both my new and old family. Ruth, Cunningham's portrait of Laura was so amazing that I wonder if, for awhile, he was an unfulfilled housewife in THIS lifetime. Dale, Thank you for those wonderful quotes re: Michael Cunningham. Robt
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (42 of 47), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 02:30 AM Robert -- I agree with your assessment of the Clarrisa and Richard relationship in The Hours. I have seen this in action myself and been fortunate enough to become friends with the female half of such a friendship after the death of our mutual friend from AIDS . I felt a greater sense of loss at this death because I realized the person had not felt that I could accept that he was HIV positive and dying from AIDS. His dear friend whom he had known since early school years was the one who finally told me the stories from the last months of his life as well as her own story of her long friendship with him. Believe me -- from our conversations about him, I see why she was a dear and faithful friend to him all those many years and why she was one of the few who stuck through the end for him. This woman's willingness to talk to me about this friendship, has given both of us a chance to share memories or to bring up our friend without the uneasy quiet which was the norm with others in the circle. She and I can now bring up his name and not have to tip-toe around or change the topic quickly -- much better for both of us and certainly more honorable of a person very dear to each of us -- and she recognizes the depth of the friendship I felt for him and the loss of it as readily as she does her own longer, deeper one. Having said all this -- I think there are friendships such as this which exist -- with or without romantic overtones between same sex, heterosexual individuals and even between men and women (either gay, lesbian, or heterosexual orientation). I think there are deep connections which are felt -- which create friendships of a lifetime between individuals -- and that simply pursuing a friendship then leads to strengthening and deepening that friendship. That it slides in that manner to the "familial" form often follows. I also think it is possible that such friendships can slip from initially platonic to romantic overtones to familial and finally settle into some amalgam of these and last for years -- but that initial "click-start" is still there and kicks in no matter the length of time between seeing such a friend. Even in the stages where romance enters the picture, sex need not and usually is not a part of such deep, rewarding and enduring friendships. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (43 of 47), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 03:02 PM Ann & All: The more I mull the Milan Kundera quote... ("We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives not perfect it in our lives to come.") ...the more I think he's implying, at least, that one of the many miracles of good fiction is that it lets us experience vicariously other people's emotional lives, giving us a potential boost along the way of "knowing what to want." >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (44 of 47), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 04:00 PM Didn't Richard and Clarissa have a sexual relationship when they were younger which turned into a platonic one as they got older? I thought that was implied in the switching of beds with Louis...and the failed sexual encounter between Louis and Clarissa. I agree with you, Dan, that Louis wasn't very well-drawn. However, I thought that Cunningham did an excellent job with the characters of Laura and Richard....and Clarissa, to a lesser extent. And, I always have a hard time saying that people who are unhappy in their roles as parents should leave, that everyone will be better off. I tend to think that losing a parent when you are young is something from which you never totally recover. I find myself wanting parents to limp through those years as best they can, as unpopular a view as that usually is. Physical abuse is generally the only factor that makes up my mind that they should leave. Barb
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (45 of 47), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 05:11 PM Robt, Thank you for that very thoughtful reply to my question, which helped me understand this aspect of the book better. I agree with Dottie that many people acquire friends who function like family, but your explanation brought home to me how important this is for many gay people in particular. Dan and Barb, I agree that Louis is the least satisfactory major character. Barb, Clarissa did have a brief sexual relationship with Richard, at the same time that he was involved with Louis. Richard took turns sleeping with them. (In fact, I think it's a wonder that Louis didn't knife one or the other of them in the back). Both Clarissa and Richard were gay, and it was obvious to her that neither could remain sexually faithful to the other. She needed a less intense and complicated life so she ended the sexual part of the relationship. Barb, you have a valid point when you question whether people who are unhappy as parents should leave. Cunningham stacked the deck in favor of Laura's decision because he made her suicidal. I would like to know how the rest of you reacted when you read the last statement in the following exchange between Richard and Clarissa: "You've been so good to me, Mrs. Dalloway." "Richard--" "I love you. Does that sound trite?" "No." Richard smiles, He shakes his head. He says, "I don't think two people could have been happier than we've been." This is a direct quote from the last line of Virginia Woolf's suicide letter to her husband. The following is from this letter, quoted in the first chapter of The Hours If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I cant go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. Frankly, this last line jolted me both times I read it. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (46 of 47), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 05:49 PM Ann: Very astute observation about that line. I did not notice the duplication, which really brings some of the material together rather nicely. Thank you for pointing that out. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (47 of 47), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 05:52 PM Ann: I confess that, although I read Virginia's suicide note in a biography, it was distant enough in time for me that I didn't recognize the last line of it reprised in that conversation in THE HOURS and, like you, it hit me very hard both times. Though the two contexts are extremely different, it occurs to me that both of those sentiments contain the unspoken qualifier, "given the circumstances." That resonates with me, big-time. I don't see it (them) as a diminishment at all, but only an affirmation of the way the world works. Or, am I over-simplifying, here? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (39 of 49), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 07:14 PM What would have been better for Richie? Well, Kay, having grown up with a chronically depressed mother and having experienced the illness myself, that's a challenging one for me to answer. Cunningham made things pretty clear cut. Laura had to leave one way or the other, either by physically removing herself from the home or by killing herself. Of course, I believe that leaving her family was preferable. Richie was going to be hurt in either case, but at least Laura would survive. In real life, the choices usually aren't so cut and dried. I saw Laura as very much the Virginia Woolf counterpart, but without any of the compensation of her creative gifts. Unfortunately, Laura lived at a time when the medical treatments for chronic depression were not very good. If she had lived today, she would have had better choices. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (40 of 49), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 09:34 PM Ann: I really was thinking of Cunningham's "Louis" scene when I mentioned Cunningham was having problems depicting characters. I concede that Laura is a fascinating character full of realistic emotions. I loved the cake episode, especially Laura's thoughts during the ordeal, as well as her day in the hotel. Plot Spoiler Though it is off the subject somewhat, I'll say again Cunningham's depiction of Richard's fall was eerily accurate. I recently saw some footage of two people who tumbled off a cliff to their deaths during a failed rescue attempt. Their falls echo Cunningham's passage: He seems so certain, so serene, that she briefly imagines it hasn't happened at all. She reaches the window in time to see Richard still in flight, his robe billowing, and it seems even now as if it might be a minor accident, something reparable. She sees him touch the ground five floors below, sees him kneel on the concrete, see his head strike, hears the sound he makes, and yet she believes, at least for another moment, leaning out over the sill, that he will stand up again, groggy perhaps, winded, but still himself, still whole, still able to speak. This is an exceptional passage, as Robert noted earlier. But the way Cunningham emphasizes the gross horror of the event by depicting a "soft" landing, the Richard "touches" the ground, "kneels," and Clarissa "sees his head strike, hears the sound he makes." It is as horrifyingly real as the video of the people falling off the cliff. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (41 of 49), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Monday, April 17, 2000 09:52 PM Ann, You asked: "What do you make of [Richard's] relationship with Clarissa? Was she in some sense a substitute for the mother who deserted him? Did it strike you as odd that a woman would be the deepest love of his life? Or is that an incorrect description of their relationship?" Richard's relationship with Clarissa seems natural to me. Speaking as a gay man, I have several deeply significant relationships with women that have lasted decades and I don't think this is atypical. It's a relief to not have sex as part of the equation as I imagine is the case in same sex relationships between heterosexual friends. It's just not about sex and yet deeply connected and full of love. I don't know whether or not Richard had other relationships as deep as his love for Clarissa, but it doesn't strike me as odd if it were the deepest. I don't think the deepest relationship of one's life need be a romantic one, although it probably most often is. Often gay men create new "families" consisting of friends and lovers as often we choose to remove ourselves from hostile backgrounds and flee to gay-friendlier places. These new relationships sometimes take on a dual role of friend AND family and the loyalties can be intense. Not that Richard's childhood home was necessarily homophobic, although it is not unreasonable that his father, a WW II vet in the late 40's, 50's and 60's might be hostile to homosexuality during Richard's youth. I would say Clarissa appeared to me to be like new family perhaps substituting for his mother and maybe more. Certainly when a gay man gets AIDS it soon becomes clear who his "family" is. When I got AIDS I was fortunate to be embraced by both my new and old family. Ruth, Cunningham's portrait of Laura was so amazing that I wonder if, for awhile, he was an unfulfilled housewife in THIS lifetime. Dale, Thank you for those wonderful quotes re: Michael Cunningham. Robt
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (42 of 49), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 02:30 AM Robert -- I agree with your assessment of the Clarrisa and Richard relationship in The Hours. I have seen this in action myself and been fortunate enough to become friends with the female half of such a friendship after the death of our mutual friend from AIDS . I felt a greater sense of loss at this death because I realized the person had not felt that I could accept that he was HIV positive and dying from AIDS. His dear friend whom he had known since early school years was the one who finally told me the stories from the last months of his life as well as her own story of her long friendship with him. Believe me -- from our conversations about him, I see why she was a dear and faithful friend to him all those many years and why she was one of the few who stuck through the end for him. This woman's willingness to talk to me about this friendship, has given both of us a chance to share memories or to bring up our friend without the uneasy quiet which was the norm with others in the circle. She and I can now bring up his name and not have to tip-toe around or change the topic quickly -- much better for both of us and certainly more honorable of a person very dear to each of us -- and she recognizes the depth of the friendship I felt for him and the loss of it as readily as she does her own longer, deeper one. Having said all this -- I think there are friendships such as this which exist -- with or without romantic overtones between same sex, heterosexual individuals and even between men and women (either gay, lesbian, or heterosexual orientation). I think there are deep connections which are felt -- which create friendships of a lifetime between individuals -- and that simply pursuing a friendship then leads to strengthening and deepening that friendship. That it slides in that manner to the "familial" form often follows. I also think it is possible that such friendships can slip from initially platonic to romantic overtones to familial and finally settle into some amalgam of these and last for years -- but that initial "click-start" is still there and kicks in no matter the length of time between seeing such a friend. Even in the stages where romance enters the picture, sex need not and usually is not a part of such deep, rewarding and enduring friendships. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (43 of 49), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 03:02 PM Ann & All: The more I mull the Milan Kundera quote... ("We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives not perfect it in our lives to come.") ...the more I think he's implying, at least, that one of the many miracles of good fiction is that it lets us experience vicariously other people's emotional lives, giving us a potential boost along the way of "knowing what to want." >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (44 of 49), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 04:00 PM Didn't Richard and Clarissa have a sexual relationship when they were younger which turned into a platonic one as they got older? I thought that was implied in the switching of beds with Louis...and the failed sexual encounter between Louis and Clarissa. I agree with you, Dan, that Louis wasn't very well-drawn. However, I thought that Cunningham did an excellent job with the characters of Laura and Richard....and Clarissa, to a lesser extent. And, I always have a hard time saying that people who are unhappy in their roles as parents should leave, that everyone will be better off. I tend to think that losing a parent when you are young is something from which you never totally recover. I find myself wanting parents to limp through those years as best they can, as unpopular a view as that usually is. Physical abuse is generally the only factor that makes up my mind that they should leave. Barb
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (45 of 49), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 05:11 PM Robt, Thank you for that very thoughtful reply to my question, which helped me understand this aspect of the book better. I agree with Dottie that many people acquire friends who function like family, but your explanation brought home to me how important this is for many gay people in particular. Dan and Barb, I agree that Louis is the least satisfactory major character. Barb, Clarissa did have a brief sexual relationship with Richard, at the same time that he was involved with Louis. Richard took turns sleeping with them. (In fact, I think it's a wonder that Louis didn't knife one or the other of them in the back). Both Clarissa and Richard were gay, and it was obvious to her that neither could remain sexually faithful to the other. She needed a less intense and complicated life so she ended the sexual part of the relationship. Barb, you have a valid point when you question whether people who are unhappy as parents should leave. Cunningham stacked the deck in favor of Laura's decision because he made her suicidal. I would like to know how the rest of you reacted when you read the last statement in the following exchange between Richard and Clarissa: "You've been so good to me, Mrs. Dalloway." "Richard--" "I love you. Does that sound trite?" "No." Richard smiles, He shakes his head. He says, "I don't think two people could have been happier than we've been." This is a direct quote from the last line of Virginia Woolf's suicide letter to her husband. The following is from this letter, quoted in the first chapter of The Hours If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I cant go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. Frankly, this last line jolted me both times I read it. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (46 of 49), Read 33 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 05:49 PM Ann: Very astute observation about that line. I did not notice the duplication, which really brings some of the material together rather nicely. Thank you for pointing that out. Dan
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (47 of 49), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 05:52 PM Ann: I confess that, although I read Virginia's suicide note in a biography, it was distant enough in time for me that I didn't recognize the last line of it reprised in that conversation in THE HOURS and, like you, it hit me very hard both times. Though the two contexts are extremely different, it occurs to me that both of those sentiments contain the unspoken qualifier, "given the circumstances." That resonates with me, big-time. I don't see it (them) as a diminishment at all, but only an affirmation of the way the world works. Or, am I over-simplifying, here? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (48 of 49), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sheila Ash (sheila_ash@talk21.com) Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 05:01 PM Coming late to this discussion, but on reading through everyone's thoughts this far, hasn't it just been a great one! Good idea to juxtapose these two books. I am about half way through Mrs Dalloway, having read The Hours first, although I have to admit to having seen the film version - Vanessa Redgrave fan you will recall - some years ago and then again just a few days before reading The Hours. I found The Hours eary - well that's not quite the correct word, the intro on VW's suicide and the aura of assumed soon to be death hung thoughout the book. Although I was surprised it was Richard not Laura who committed suicide - and yes I missed the obvious connections between them too. I have to agree with those CRs who commented on the passage about Richard's jump and Laura and Richie's cake baking session. Excellent! Laura's hotel escapade is akin to VW's walk out and unexecuted escape trip up to London. I did not see Laura as being clinically depressed, just as a frustrated, no, an unsatisfied, unhappy person, somewhat of a square peg in the round hole role of wife and mother, like VW but without her creative outlets and without real friendships - the most important relationships in one's life, I believe. They offer sustenance when all others have gone. Where else had Laura to go to survive but to leave. If she had not she'd have left in another way - mentally, through illness, or via suicide. I find it completely not understandable why folk contemplate suicicde as a way out because I am just far too much of a for getting on with life, life is what you make of it, type girl. So when I was reading The Hours this constant mist of imminient death disturbed me greatly. But once it actually happened and the plot tied into place I look back to see a fine novel which I did enjoy. Its difficult to compare it to Mrs D, as a homage to VW or whatever, maybe its not even necessary to compare it to have enjoyed it in its own right? I suppose I relate much more to the contemporary style and language of The Hours. But as such did it make reading Mrs D easier? - a little, but reading it now I find myself thinking more of the film version than of The Hours. I think you probably do get more out of The Hours knowing something about Mrs D and I reckon that if you came new to it then reading The Hours, Mrs D, then The Hours again is the best, most satisfying route. I am still finding Mrs D heavy going - its too ornate, too floral, it has too much that is inessential - all the outpourings and all the extra characters (who said more than in War & Peace?) . I'm struggling with it as I have done with other VW works I have attempted in the past. Sheila
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (49 of 49), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sheila Ash (sheila_ash@talk21.com) Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 05:05 PM Ann, Spot on re the lines from VW's letter! People can love someone enough to let them go or to let go of them. I agree with Dale, very moving both times. Sheila
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (50 of 54), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, April 21, 2000 12:46 PM Even though I may rub most members of CC the wrong way I need to be honest in my comments. As I have written before Mrs. Dalloway is a great artistic achievement on VW's part. It is ground breaking and innovative. She has the uncanny ability to perceive and describe the characters in her book. Now I see Cunningham as a better craftsman, better writer, organizer but less original and creative than VW. The interfacing of episodes, going back and forth between characters and events was well done. So what are the negatives? Cunningham's book is more artificial and is lacking in VW's originality. The whole thing has a morbid and negative slant to it. Of course a writer is entitled to his feelings and he presents them well. But, it just was not my cup of tea. After I finish reading a book I tend to compare books and writers in my own mind and have been thinking of GE by Dickens and Thackeray's Vanity Fair. These book lack the morbid threads that run through The Hour and to a lesser extent Mrs. Dalloway. Just the same they contain episodes of poverty, deaths the usual ups and downs of life. But I would not call these two books morbid. Ernie
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (51 of 54), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, April 22, 2000 03:17 AM Well, Ernie -- I hope you never choose NOT to post to avoid rubbing anyone the wrong way cause that's what sparks these wild and wonderful discussions around here. Now -- I think you have these books pretty well analyzed myself -- I agree much of Dickens and Thackery' Vanity Fair and others -- can't hit on a concrete addition to this list at the moment -- are very much -- full of the dreary and impoverished and not at all pleasant day-to-day bumps of life in their times but not truly morbid in the sense of hopelessness being expounded. As for books that portray poverty but not in a morbid or hopeless manner -- we have a more modern example of this albeit set in the same area of the world -- Dickens had his London and McCourt had his Limerick. Think about the talk around Angela's Ashes -- some folks could NOT get past the squalor, disease and death and drunkenness of this story and laugh at it even when the author was goading the reader into it. I for one loved Angels' Ashes for that very humor and never-give-up-or-give-in attitude that resulted. I know there were as many who died in these circumstances and who gave up and who didn't come out with any kind of positive result -- but -- how could one NOT laugh with McCourt and cheer for a good outcome -- there was hope there just as in the heart of the blackest of Dickens tales! Some topics engender this love-hate thing also -- authors approach these topics with an obvious bias presented or trying to walk a line. Suicide as in Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours is one of those topics. It is a matter of style and a matter of tastes and a matter of timing -- don't you think? I LOVE getting to talk to you here! The Hours did have that sense of morbidity pervading it -- he starts with VW's suicide for goodness sake -- and then keeps hammering at the tendencies toward death of the characters in each of the stories. As I said in my almost spoiler note before this thread began -- I was having difficulty reading because I kept feeling someone walking over graves. His style is very different -- the stories are different but all the connections he used add so much to this book -- and reading it with Mrs. Dalloway gives added pleasure -- for the connections but ALSO for the sheer pleasure of exploring Virginia Woolf's style for oneself. I don't think that can be considered bad fallout from the popularity of The Hours. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (52 of 54), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, April 22, 2000 09:10 AM I enjoyed your comments, Ernie. I found a preoccupation with death characteristic of both novels. These are the kind of books that I truly enjoy reading together with the rest of you folks. On my own, I probably would end up abandoning them midstream because of the depressing aspects you described. And yet, I think there is a lot of depth to both books, much that made me stop and think about things important to me, as well as some exceptional writing. So I was glad I read them, even if I needed some of that positive peer pressure to get me going. The introduction to my copy of Mrs. Dalloway says that she was in one of her happiest periods when she wrote this book. I'm not sure I could take reading one of her books written when she was really feeling down. {G} Dickens and Thackery wrote about external challenges. These books deal more with internal problems. The former are easier to read about and perhaps to experience. Dottie, I enjoyed ANGELA'S ASHES for the very reasons you described, but I know others who found it too sad to read. I think this was particularly true for may people who had first hand experience with alcoholism. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (53 of 54), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Christina Devitt (cdevitt@packer.edu) Date: Saturday, April 22, 2000 02:14 PM OK -- Now I've figured out how this dialogue works. I posted a version of the following paragraph today in the Mrs. D thread in CC thinking the TH discussion would take place there too. I had the timing right but not the place, oh well. Having read the great remarks in this thread, I'm glad I found this. My reaction to TH is similar to Dan's and Ernest's. I admired TH, but felt it never approached the quality of character development in MD. I felt TH was more of an intellectual exercise, a puzzle. For me, TH was less melancholy, more cynical in tone in comparison to MD. A friend of mine felt that the last lines of MD held a sense of promise, whereas the ending of TH did not. That triggered a memory for me and since I have an eBook, I went searching for a phrase I thought I remembered with the word "promise" in it. As it turns out, "promise" occurs in a quite a few places in TH that I hadn't remembered in connection with a variety of situations -- including death. Still, I agree with my friend that the promise of fulfillment, of perfect happiness or immortality feels more prevalent in MD than TH. To me, in TH life in time was revered more than the possibility of life "outside" of time.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (54 of 54), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, April 22, 2000 04:53 PM On 4/22/00 2:14:52 PM, Christina Devitt wrote: >As it turns out, "promise" occurs in >a quite a few places in TH >that I hadn't remembered in >connection with a variety of >situations -- including death. >Still, I agree with my friend >that the promise of >fulfillment, of perfect >happiness or immortality feels >more prevalent in MD than TH. >To me, in TH life in time was >revered more than the >possibility of life "outside" >of time. e Welcome to Constant Reader Christina! Enjoyed your comments --usually we have two unrelated books going in Classics Corner and Constant Reader but last month we ran the Great Expectations (CC) and Jack Maggs(CR) discussion duo and this month we have another dual discussion going -- although as you discovered each book stays in in its niche. I am going to be looking at that promise business a bit and thinking about the theory that The Hours revered life in time more than life outside of time. Can you give some further details from TH to clarify this? I think the general consensus has been that Woolf's book is definitely the better writing overall but that reading these tow together has given each a little different twist and that The Hours gains from the shared portions with Mrs D and from the derivative themes. I think TH could stand alone but it definitely would not be a book on par with Mrs. D. Maybe you could check out the New Member conference and post a note about yourself and what you like to read and current books -- or just talk a bit here or in Salon. Glad to have you aboard! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (55 of 62), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, April 23, 2000 03:23 PM Well, in all this discussion, there's only one comment I can find to take issue with: "Laura didn't want to live life. She wanted to escape it by retreating into a world of books. In her illness, she was very like Virginia Woolf, but she lacked her ability to create. Woolf wrote some of the most original prose of the twentieth century. Laura spent her life as a librarian." Harumph. Seriously, as much as I enjoyed TH, I found it somewhat irritating in a way. Cunningham seemed to have set up a parallel universe to the world of MD, and often seemed to insert images and incidents simply to emphasize this. Perhaps that was the whole point of the book, but the whole concept seemed to turn into little more than a puzzle or game after awhile. David, who also wonders if, had the scene with Louis gone on much longer, Clarissa would have pushed the vase far enough to the left to knock it off the table.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (56 of 62), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Christina Devitt (cdevitt@packer.edu) Date: Sunday, April 23, 2000 07:50 PM On 4/22/00 4:53:55 PM, Dottie Randall wrote: > >I am going to be looking at that promise >business a bit and thinking about the >theory that The Hours revered life in >time more than life outside of time. >Can you give some further details from >TH to clarify this? > I figured - and feared - someone would ask me for evidence. Fair enough, Dottie - and hard for me to substantiate - but I'm glad you made me put in some effort. Passages like the following left me with the impression that time was different in the two books: From TH, toward the end, "It seems, at that moment, that Richard truly begins to leave the world. To Clarissa it is an almost physical sensation, a gentle but irreversible pulling away, like a blade of grass being drawn out of the ground...We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep-it's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult." From MD, when Peter Walsh encounters the old woman (in the park?)singing the ancient song, "Still remembering how once in some primeval May she had walked with her lover, this rusty pump, this battered old woman with one hand exposed for coppers the other clutching her side, would still be there in ten million years, remembering how once she had walked in May, where the sea flows now, with whom it did not matter - he was a man, oh yes, a man who had loved her." I realize these excerpts may say more about Clarissa Vaughn and Peter Walsh than anything else, or my choice of them may say more about me or may be totally off base and too unrelated to each other to matter, but they were two examples I found in which the language said "now is all we have" in TH and "the timeless is all around us to see" in MD. At the same time, the whole premise of TH seems to be a reincarnation of VW and MD, so now I've confused myself. Really both books have both senses of time; just different balances imho.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (57 of 62), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 01:09 AM Christina -- that first example is almost a direct lift of a section in Mrs.D. -- with those slight changes that Cunningham applies to such scenes. I knew as soon as I saw this choice exactly the references which led to your original' statement -- they are scattered through both books -- most are lifted and transferred with adaptations from Mrs. D to The Hours -- and yes, I think Cunningham has deliberately done this to reinforce TH ties with VW's book -- he even says so in that interview which was included by Dale here. But I think your last statement on this here is closer to the mark -- both books have these time references -- some are in both books and those that aren't in both are just as unsettling perhaps but the balance is different -- because the times are different, because the circumstances of the character's life choices and life circumstances are different (this gives me a little hope after a VERY hard week) -- these time questions are part of the scene setting for certain characters and their own actions relative to what we learn of their lives but they are also relative to time and the changes which time passing can make in any human's life -- how we view a choice or a decision -- and in some cases, whether we will BE there to look back and make a new decision or amend an old one. Keep talking Christina -- this got me thinking about these time passages in a new way -- I am more than halfway through my rereading of Mrs. D. have a few scribbles in the margins and will try to get a post up before I get too busy with real life yet again. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (58 of 62), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 09:01 AM David, I have to admit that my own small peeve with TH was the fact that MC seemed to be saying that Laura's mental health was questionable as demonstrated by her affection for reading. I understand that MC was creating a character that had similarities to VW. But is it absolutely necessary to make me feel like the option is reading vs. living life? Are we all just escaping life when we feed this addiction of ours? MAP
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (59 of 62), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 11:17 AM MAP: I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here {G}, but to answer your question, I certainly don't think reading is a way of avoiding life...just the opposite, in fact...engaging more lives and more ideas, in more times and places, than even the most adventurous personal life could ever produce first-hand. I remember a student once asking Flannery O'Connor if a would-be writer shouldn't travel widely for several years and "really experience life" before trying to create fiction. Flannery told him, "By the time a person reaches puberty, he/she knows enough about the workings of the world to use as material for at least a hundred years." And, speaking of the uses of memory in these two books, am I the only one here who finds in his gradually slipping memory people and events from fiction which feel as though I've actually experienced them, and incidents from my own life that are so distanced as to seem someone else's? (Or is it just the Prozac? {G}) >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (60 of 62), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 02:24 PM Dale -- It isn't the Prozac. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (61 of 62), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 04:39 PM I meant to cast no aspersions on librarians, David -- honest. I have sometimes thought I should have been one. I agree, Dale and Mary Anne, that for most of us reading greatly expands our experiences. Laura, however, substituted an imaginary literary world for real life. That's a different matter. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (62 of 62), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 05:12 PM Ann: Wow. Laura DID "substitute an imaginary literary world for real life." Which brings to mind another remarkable character who did the same -- Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Last year, I spent a wonderful hour with Asa Faith's World Lit class talking about Ms. Bovary and the degree to which she shared responsibility for her fate with the romance writers of her time. A wonderful discussion, of which I can unfortunately remember only a little. Asa Faith, could you reconstruct, somewhat, those students' ideas? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (63 of 65), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 07:01 PM Ann, And the problem with that is...?(G) MAP
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (64 of 65), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 08:49 PM I read THE HOURS last fall and MRS. DALLOWAY just a couple of weeks ago. I really intended to post about MD in Classics Corner, but I never had time to read all of the notes. I was ready to jump in to defend Clarissa. But I did enjoy TH even though much of it has faded from memory. I vividly remember Clarissa, Richard, and Laura, but Louis is like a shadow in the back of my mind. I guess that this proves your point about Louis being the weakest depiction of a character. Jane
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (65 of 65), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2000 05:11 PM Jane, If I had read THE HOURS first, I would have been predisposed to view the Clarissa in MRS. D more favorably. The Clarissa in THE HOURS lacked the snobbish cruel streak in the Clarissa from MRS. D, and she was truly generous to her friends. Ann
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (66 of 68), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, April 28, 2000 09:19 PM Ann, I felt that the portrait of Clarissa was unfair in MRS. D. because we were always seeing her through someone else's eyes. Several times during the story, Peter said that she was cold, but I felt that he was trying to prove to himself that he was better off without her. The very last few lines made me think that he was lying to himself. (Peter's thoughts) "What is this terror?what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said. For there she was." I should have posted this on CC, but the number of notes there just overwhelmed me. Jane
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (67 of 68), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, April 28, 2000 10:11 PM Jane, I don't think it much matters where you posted the note. At this point these two books are so intertwined in my mind that I have a hard time thinking of them separately. Good point about Peter trying to convince himself that he was better off without Clarissa when he obviously couldn't shake off her spell. To tell you the truth though, those last couple of paragraphs didn't do it for me -- the terror, the ecstasy, etc. I remember thinking, --huh? I just wasn't prepared for such a strong reaction on Peter's part. I have to say, however, that I really liked Lady Rosseter's line right before this: What does the brain matter, said Lady Rosseter, getting up, compared with the heart? The comments refer to Richard, the well-intentioned, if unexciting, husband.
Topic: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (68 of 68), Read 10 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, April 30, 2000 08:11 PM Ann, Yes, Lady R. has a point, but is she any better than Clarissa? I thought that all of you were rather hard on poor Clarissa. She was a woman of her times. Someone compared her to Virginia Woolf who was able to make more of her life than Clarissa, but I think that it was an unfair comparison. VW was an extraordinary person and Clarissa was an ordinary one. I think of my mother who is a very intelligent woman, but she stayed home until I was in college and I was the younger of two. In those days, it was considered a disgrace if the wife had to work and the husband couldn't support the family. So my mother didn't work because my father didn't want her to. She might be criticized by some women for staying home. She was a product of her time just as Clarissa was. Jane
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