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Cunningham, Michael

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1952-    ) US author, most prominently of The Hours (1998), a novel about Virginia Woolf which won the Pulitzer Prize and other awards; of sf interest is Specimen Days (2005), which like its famous predecessor has a tripartite structure, in this case three thematically intertwined stories, each set in an almost animate New York, each featuring versions of the same three primal characters. The first, set in the mid-nineteenth century, is a Ghost Story [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in which a young lad killed in an industrial accident haunts the machine that killed him, while the machine – which is to say the Industrial Revolution – itself haunts and enables the City itself; the second, set in 2003, depicts a noir New York haunted by a terrorist who is bombing sites seemingly at random; the third, set 150 years further on, features a Cyborg – which is to say a machine haunting a human – and a female Alien, one of many refugees from the first inhabited planet discovered by an expanding humanity, who have begun to inhabit the great city just as refugees had been doing for centuries. Cunningham's vision of this New York – as so often in sf written by mainstream authors ignorant of the long array of "catcher rhetorics" created by authors of the fantastic in order to adumbrate the future – is parched and exiguous; the New York he affirms in the end is not dissimilar to that longed for in Jack Finney's Time and Again (1970). The title is taken from Walt Whitman (1819-1892), whose presence and poetry haunt all three sections of the novel. [JC]

Michael Cunningham

born Cincinnati, Ohio: 8 November 1952



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