I am honored and thrilled today to feature a guest post from Christina Meldrum, author of Amaryllis in Blueberry. I just reviewed Amaryllis in Blueberry (don’t you love the title?) in late January- https://www.greatthoughts.com/2011/01/%e2%80%9clife-is-a-feast%e2%80%9d/.html/.
Here’s what Christina has to say:
When I’m in the process of writing a novel, I’m particularly drawn to works by authors whose language inspires me to pause, think, re-read and wonder: how did the author DO that? One of the authors who gives me these moment of stunned pause is Michael Cunningham. Ever since reading THE HOURS years ago, I’ve greatly admired Michael’s work. There’s something about his use of language that mystifies me.
I was fortunate not only to read his most recent novel, BY NIGHTFALL, while I was in the editing stage of AMARYLLIS IN BLUEBERRY; I also had the pleasure of seeing Michael read from both BY NIGHTFALL and his current work-in-progress at one of our wonderful San Francisco Bay Area bookstores, Book Passage, where I’ll be appearing on March 5th. When Elaine Petrocelli, the owner of Book Passage, introduced Michael, she described him as the equivalent of a rock star for her. Elaine explained how actual rock stars might visit the store and she would be utterly unaware of who they were. But Michael Cunningham: now, that’s someone who gets Elaine’s attention.
I understood what Elaine meant—at least I thought I did. But then Michael started to read, and I really did. Michael’s writing is musical: it’s rhythmical and melodic, with great lyrics to boot. He is a rock star!
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised later when Michael described how music informs his writing. Every morning before he writes, while having his first cup of coffee, Michael listens to music in order to “agitate the molecules of the air in the room.” When writing THE HOURS, he listened to classical music: Mozart, Schubert and Brahms. SPECIMEN DAYS called for Dylan and Lou Reed and beyond. BY NIGHTFALL led him to bluesy, jazzy, “snaky” music, as he described it.
As soon as Michael said this about BY NIGHTFALL, it seemed so obvious to me. How had I missed it? Reading BY NIGHTFALL is like listening to the blues. And his new yet-unnamed novel? My sense from hearing him read a section leads me to this conclusion: this next book is going to solidify Michael’s rock star status. The sentences are short, not snaky. The pace and language are quick, distinct and hard, not meandering. Sure feels like rock to me.
So that’s how he does it.
Thanks to Christina Meldrum for a fabulous guest post!
What are you reading and where are you going?