StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups
About This Show
StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups features stories you’ll love to hear – fiction, memoir, poetry, film, song, oral storytelling, and more. Listen as master storyteller Linda Tate talks about literature and other stories each week – and be sure to catch those special weeks when Linda reads the stories to you. Visit TheStoryWeb.com to learn more, share your thoughts about this week’s story, and subscribe to a free weekly email highlighting the featured story.
Most Recent Episode
105: Michael Cunningham: "The Hours"
7 days ago
This week on StoryWeb: Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours. In her fascinating book Virginia Woolf Icon, Brenda Silver examines all the ways Woolf has become a potent international symbol. You can buy a Barnes and Noble canvas bag featuring Woolf’s face, and the British National Portrait Gallery sells thousands of Woolf postcards a month. And of course, the great American playwright Edward Albee famously asked Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? American novelist Michael Cunningham is clearly not afraid of Virginia Woolf. He says of Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway: I suspect any serious reader has a first great book, just the way anybody has a first kiss. For me it was this book. It stayed with me in a way no other book ever has. And it felt like something for me to write about very much the way you might write a novel based on the first time you fell in love. Cunningham’s 1998 novel, The Hours, is a kind of homage to and deep exploration of Mrs. Dalloway, which I discussed in last week’s StoryWeb episode. The Hours is not a rewriting of her 1935 novel per se, but a reimagining, a fractured retelling, both a sequel of sorts to Mrs. Dalloway and a wholly new work on its own. Cunningham says, “I think it’s like the way a jazz musician might do a riff on an older established piece of music. It doesn’t claim or conceal the older piece of music, but it takes that music and turns it into something else.” The Hours weaves together the stories of three women – Laura Brown, an American housewife who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949; Clarissa Vaughn, a late-twentieth century American whose friend Richard, a prominent writer, is dying of AIDS; and Virginia Woolf herself in 1923 as she begins to write Mrs. Dalloway. All three women are presented on one key day in their lives. The novel’s prologue, which you can read online, tells the story of Woolf’s suicide in 1941. The women’s stories comment on each other in provocative ways, and the reader is in for some unexpected plot twists. Though some of have seen The Hours as a derivative knock-off of Woolf’s masterpiece, others see it as a postmodern tour de force, a bold intertextual response to Mrs. Dalloway. As it riffs on one of the most important modernist novels, The Hours is, I believe, a great po