November 6, 1952
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Michael Cunningham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer most renowned for his decades-spanning novel The Hours (1998) and its lauded 2002 film adaptation. After attending graduate school in creative writing, Cunningham began his career as a novelist, though he didn't gain notable recognition until the publication of his second book, the intricate and intimate tale A Home at the End of the World (1990). As a gay man, Cunningham found homosexuality to be a natural element in his work, as further evinced by the family saga Flesh and Blood (1995). Already established as an esteemed author, he reached a new level of success and acclamation with The Hours, which presents the stories of three women of different generations struggling with love and sexuality. The novel was subsequently adapted into a star-studded drama in 2002, and Cunningham himself later scripted a 2004 film version of A Home at the End of the World. His literary follow-up, Specimen Days (2005), had a relatively lukewarm reception, but his next novel, the pensive By Nightfall (2010), reasserted his status as major American writer.Raised in Pasadena, CA, Michael Cunningham headed north to pursue an English degree at Stanford University and later enrolled in the esteemed Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. In 1984, Cunningham's debut novel, Golden States, was published, but he later distanced himself from the coming-of-age story, dismissing it as a formative misfire. Towards the end of the decade, he unveiled the short story "White Angel," which was later worked into his novel A Home at the End of the World (1990). Tackling themes of sexual identity and love, the book resonated with readers and garnered Cunningham a notable following. As he worked on his next offering, he was awarded a 1993 Guggenheim Fellowship, and Flesh and Blood (1995) came next, a more ambitious and complex tale about a family with Greek and Italian roots.In 1998, Cunningham hit new heights in his career, receiving a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and debuting his novel The Hours, which was met with numerous accolades, going on to win both the PEN/Faulkner Award and a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Consisting of three stories set in different time periods, the book featured revered English author Virginia Woolf as one of its main characters and explored themes of sexual orientation, mental illness, and death with thoughtful and poetic prose. It wasn't long before the Hollywood adaptation went into production, with director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter David Hare guiding a high-profile cast that included Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman, who won an Oscar for her sensitive portrayal of Woolf.Opting to write his own script for the 2004 movie version of A Home at the End of the World, Cunningham worked outside of his comfort zone as a screenwriter, and the result may have affected the finished production, starring Colin Farrell and Robin Wright Penn, which had some admirers but ultimately fell short of expectations. Inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Cunningham made the American literary icon a presence in his next novel, Specimen Days (2005), but baffled some readers with the book's detour into science fiction. Venturing back into screenwriter territory, this time with fellow author Susan Minot, Cunningham co-wrote the script for the film adaptation of her novel Evening (1998), which featured a remarkable ensemble cast, including Claire Danes and Vanessa Redgrave, but failed to make a lasting cinematic impression. Readers waiting for a return to form from Cunningham were largely pleased with By Nightfall (2010), the story of a restless Manhattan family rooted in the art world that marked a more focused approach for the acclaimed author.