The Straits Times
Published on Oct 29, 2012

Author's mum hated his Pulitzer Prize winning book


Michael Cunningham wrote his award-winning novel, The Hours, for his mother, but found that she hated it.

The story traces the lives of three women affected by the 1925 Virginia Woolf novel, Mrs Dalloway. Cunningham's mother was the inspiration behind the character of a bored housewife, and she did not like having her life on display.

"She didn't like the book, it was in her mind that she was exploited and exposed," says the 60-year-old writer on the phone, ahead of his appearances here this weekend (nov 3, 4) at the Singapore Writers Festival. On Saturday, the senior lecturer at Yale University appears on a panel about literary awards and takes questions after the movie screening of The Hours. On Sunday, he hosts a literary dinner and gives a lecture on the craft of writing.

The author of six books including the 2010 publication, By Nightfall, which turns mid-life crisis into comedy, Cunningham is best known for his third novel, The Hours. Published in 1998, it swept the Pen/Faulker and Pulitzer Prize fiction awards the next year, became a New York Times bestseller and was later made into a movie, starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman.