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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Rhythm, cadence, music to the ear

“Language in fiction is made up of equal parts meaning and music. The sentences should have rhythm and cadence, they should engage and delight the inner ear.” – Michael Cunningham

Novelist and screenwriter Cunningham, who turned 65 yesterday, is probably best known for his novel The Hours, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 1999 PEN/Faulkner Award, and was made into a critically acclaimed movie for which Nicole Kidman won the Best Actress Academy Award.  

Cunningham started his writing career while working toward his Master of Fine Arts degree and had a number of short stories published in such journals as Atlantic Monthly and Paris Review during that time.  Among those early works was the wonderful “White Angel,” which earned him a place in 1989’s “Best American Short Stories” list.    Still a writer of short stories, Cunningham has had several collections published, including his most recent book, A Wild Swan and Other Tales.

In addition to the Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner awards, Cunningham has won a Michener Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Fellowship, and the O.Henry Prize for his short story “Mister Brother.”                  Cunningham has taught at several leading colleges and universities and currently serves as senior lecturer of creative writing at Yale.  His advice to his students:   “As writers we must, from our very opening sentence, speak with authority to our readers.”

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