Our Summer 2009 debut anthology features the first published excerpt from Michael Cunninghams forthcoming novel. This issue also features new fiction by some of Americas most innovative and important contemporary writers, including Jim Shepard, T Cooper, Lydia Millet and Diana Wagman. The stories in Electric Literature are charged with wit, incident, and emotional gravity right from the first sentence.
Electric Literature is just that, Electric - five great stories that grab you.s destined to become a writer. While his debut novel wouldnt come until decades later, he would win the Pulitzer for Fiction with his third — fittingly, an homage to the very book that launched both his love of literature and his lifes work. After growing up Cincinnati, Ohio, Cunningham fled to the west coast to study literature at Stanford University, but later returned to the heartland, where he received his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1980. A writer recognized early on for his promising talent, Cunningham was awarded several grants toward his work, including a Michener Fellowship from the University of Iowa in 1982, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1988. In 1984, Cunninghams debut novel, Golden States, was published. While generally well-received by the critics, the book — a narrative chronicling a few weeks in the life of a 12-year-old-boy — is often dismissed by Cunningham. In an interview with Other Voices, he explains: Im so much more interested in some kind of grand ambitious failure than I am in someones modest little success that achieves its modest little aims. I felt that I had written a book like that, and I wasnt happy about it. My publisher very generously allowed me to turn down a paperback offer and it has really gone away. With a new decade came Cunninghams stirring novel, A Home at the End of the World, in 1990. The story of a heartbreakingly lopsided love triangle between two gay men and their mutual female friend, the novel was a groundbreaking take on the ‘90s phenomenon of the nontraditional family. While not exactly released with fanfare, the work drew impressive reviews that instantly recognized Cunninghams gift for using language to define his characters voices and outline their motives. David Kaufman of The Nation noted Cunninghams exquisite way with words and ...his uncanny felicity in conveying both his characters and their story, and remarked that this is quite simply one of those rare novel imbued with graceful insights on every page. The critical acclaim of A Home at the End of the World no doubt helped Cunningham win the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 — and two years later, his domestic epic Flesh and Blood was released. Chronicling the dysfunctional Stassos family from their suburban present back through to the parents roots and looking toward the childrens uncertain futures, the sprawling saga was praised for its complexity and heart. The New York Times Book Review noted that Mr. Cunningham gets all the little things right.... Mr. Cunningham gets the big stuff right, too. For the heart of the story lies not in the nostalgic references but in the complex relationships between parents and children, between siblings, friends and lovers. While the new decade ushered in his impressive debut, the close of the decade brought with it Cunninghams inarguable opus, The Hours (1998). A tribute to that seminal work that was the authors first inspiration — Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway — the book reworks the events and ideas of the classic and sets them alternately in 1980s Greenwich Village, 1940s Los Angeles, and Woolfs London. Of Cunninghams ambitious project, USA Today raved, The Hours is that rare combination: a smashing literary tour-de-force and an utterly invigorating reading experience. If this book does not make you jump up from the sofa, looking at life and literature in new ways, check to see if you have a pulse. The Hours won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was adapted into a major motion picture starring the powerhouse trio of Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman in December 2002. To come down from the frenetic success of The Hours, Cunningham took on a quieter project, 2002s tribute/travelogue Lands End: A Walk Through Provincetown. The first installment in Crowns new Crown Journeys series, the book is a loving tour through the eccentric little town at the tip of Cape Cod beloved by so many artists and authors, Cunningham included. A haven for literary legends from Eugene ONeill to Norman Mailer, Cunningham is — rightfully — at home there.
Good To Know
Cunninghams debut novel, Golden States, can be hard to find; check out our Used & Out of Print Store to find a copy! Cunninghams short story White Angel was chosen for Best American Short Stories 1989 — the year before his acclaimed novel A Home at the End of the World was published. When asked by Barnes & Noble.com about any other names he goes by, Cunninghams list included the monikers Bree Daniels, Mickey Fingers, Jethro, Old Yeller, Gaucho, Cowboy Ed, Tim-Bob, Mister Lies, Erin The Red, Miss Kitty, and Squeegee.