Sunday, July 18, 2010

Greetings from Iowa: Review of Michael Cunningham, The Hours

Day One of the Iowa Summer Writers Festival.

All this week, I'll be blogging about my experiences at an Advanced Novel Workshop. One of our two assigned pre-readings was Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours. Here's what I thought:

The HoursThe Hours by Michael Cunningham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because it was assigned as part of a writer's workshop I'm taking. Now, it's hard to say some of what I'm about to say of a book that won the Pulitzer Prize. But, um, this book violates so many writing rules that have been drilled into my head I was initially stumped. Paragraphs that go on for pages. Telling and telling and telling, followed by some showing (2.5 pages, for example, on the squalid character of a building lobby). Constant starting of sentences with the same pronoun. Repeating of the same descriptions throughout (everyone is red-faced). Repeated use of parentheticals to explain actions or thoughts. Starting off with the death of a major character. Agent blog after agent blog, editor how-to after editor how-to, writing manual after writing manual...these are pretty much no-nos.

But then there are magnificent moments of brilliance and truth. Marvelously beautiful turns of phrases. The intrigue of how these three women's stories relate. Quirky characters, dialogue, and scenes. Even in the first half of the book, when I was still only reading because I had to, because the book was an assignment, I recognized the brilliance.

As a reader, though, I wasn't fully pulled in until the second half of the book, and I wasn't completely hooked until the last thirty pages or so. But, those pages made it worth it to me, had me in tears, had me thinking, had me acknowledging fundamental truths. I get the Pulitzer Prize, and then some.Some of you will have seen the movie--I haven't. I'm curious to do so now, though. But the book is worth reading, even if it takes you a while to want to stick with it.

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1 comment:

Jennifer Lane said...

Haven't read the book, but I LOVED the movie! Great actresses. I definitely cried at the movie.