Laws for Creations

Overview

In Walt Whitman, Michael Cunningham sees a poet whose vision of humanity is ecstatic, democratic, and sensuous. Just over a hundred years ago, Whitman celebrated America as it survived the Civil War, as it endured great poverty, and as it entered the Industrial Revolution, which would make it the most powerful nation on Earth. In Specimen Days Michael Cunningham makes Whitman's verse sing across time, and in Laws for Creations he celebrates what Whitman means to him, and how he ...

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Overview

In Walt Whitman, Michael Cunningham sees a poet whose vision of humanity is ecstatic, democratic, and sensuous. Just over a hundred years ago, Whitman celebrated America as it survived the Civil War, as it endured great poverty, and as it entered the Industrial Revolution, which would make it the most powerful nation on Earth. In Specimen Days Michael Cunningham makes Whitman's verse sing across time, and in Laws for Creations he celebrates what Whitman means to him, and how he appeared at the heart of his new novel.

Just as the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hours drew on the life and work of English novelist Viriginia Woolf, Specimen Days lovingly features the work of American poet Walt Whitman. Bringing together extracts from Whitman's prodigious writings, including Leaves of Grass and his journal, Specimen Days, Michael Cunningham's Laws for Creations provides an introduction to one of America's greatest visionary poets from one of our greatest contemporary novelists.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426071
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 4/18/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 983,995
  • Product dimensions: 5.67 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham is the author of the bestselling novel The Hours, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, A Home at the End of the World, also adapted for the screen, and Flesh and Blood, all published by FSG. He lives in New York.

Biography

By the time he finished Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway at the age of fifteen to impress a crush who tauntingly suggested he "try and be less stupid" and do so, Michael Cunningham knew that he was destined to become a writer. While his debut novel wouldn't come until decades later, he would win the Pulitzer for Fiction with his third -- fittingly, an homage to the very book that launched both his love of literature and his life's work.

After growing up Cincinnati, Ohio, Cunningham fled to the west coast to study literature at Stanford University, but later returned to the heartland, where he received his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1980. A writer recognized early on for his promising talent, Cunningham was awarded several grants toward his work, including a Michener Fellowship from the University of Iowa in 1982, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1988.

In 1984, Cunningham's debut novel, Golden States, was published. While generally well-received by the critics, the book -- a narrative chronicling a few weeks in the life of a 12-year-old-boy -- is often dismissed by Cunningham. In an interview with Other Voices, he explains: "I'm so much more interested in some kind of grand ambitious failure than I am in someone's modest little success that achieves its modest little aims. I felt that I had written a book like that, and I wasn't happy about it. My publisher very generously allowed me to turn down a paperback offer and it has really gone away."

With a new decade came Cunningham's stirring novel, A Home at the End of the World, in 1990. The story of a heartbreakingly lopsided love triangle between two gay men and their mutual female friend, the novel was a groundbreaking take on the ‘90s phenomenon of the nontraditional family. While not exactly released with fanfare, the work drew impressive reviews that instantly recognized Cunningham's gift for using language to define his characters' voices and outline their motives. David Kaufman of The Nation noted Cunningham's "exquisite way with words and ...his uncanny felicity in conveying both his characters and their story," and remarked that "this is quite simply one of those rare novel imbued with graceful insights on every page."

The critical acclaim of A Home at the End of the World no doubt helped Cunningham win the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993 -- and two years later, his domestic epic Flesh and Blood was released. Chronicling the dysfunctional Stassos family from their suburban present back through to the parents' roots and looking toward the children's uncertain futures, the sprawling saga was praised for its complexity and heart. The New York Times Book Review noted that "Mr. Cunningham gets all the little things right.... Mr. Cunningham gets the big stuff right, too. For the heart of the story lies not in the nostalgic references but in the complex relationships between parents and children, between siblings, friends and lovers."

While the new decade ushered in his impressive debut, the close of the decade brought with it Cunningham's inarguable opus, The Hours (1998). A tribute to that seminal work that was the author's first inspiration -- Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway -- the book reworks the events and ideas of the classic and sets them alternately in 1980s Greenwich Village, 1940s Los Angeles, and Woolf's London. Of Cunningham's ambitious project, USA Today raved, "The Hours is that rare combination: a smashing literary tour-de-force and an utterly invigorating reading experience. If this book does not make you jump up from the sofa, looking at life and literature in new ways, check to see if you have a pulse." The Hours won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was adapted into a major motion picture starring the powerhouse trio of Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman in December 2002.

To come down from the frenetic success of The Hours, Cunningham took on a quieter project, 2002's tribute/travelogue Land's End: A Walk Through Provincetown. The first installment in Crown's new "Crown Journeys" series, the book is a loving tour through the eccentric little town at the tip of Cape Cod beloved by so many artists and authors, Cunningham included. A haven for literary legends from Eugene O'Neill to Norman Mailer, Cunningham is -- rightfully -- at home there.

Good To Know

Cunningham's debut novel, Golden States, can be hard to find; check out our Used & Out of Print Store to find a copy!

Cunningham's short story "White Angel" was chosen for Best American Short Stories 1989 -- the year before his acclaimed novel A Home at the End of the World was published.

When asked by Barnes & Noble.com about any other names he goes by, Cunningham's list included the monikers Bree Daniels, Mickey Fingers, Jethro, Old Yeller, Gaucho, Cowboy Ed, Tim-Bob, Mister Lies, Erin The Red, Miss Kitty, and Squeegee.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 6, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cincinnati, Ohio
    1. Education:
      B.A., Stanford University, 1975; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1980
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

In college, after I gave up modeling myself on Bob Dylan (I had trouble with his conversion to Christianity) and then on Genet (I just wasn't French enough), I decided to try to become as much as possible like Walt Whitman. What propelled me was not the beauty of Whitman's language (I was an undergraduate English major; I was drowning in the beautiful language of the dead) but the following passage, which I read late one night in my dormitory room as Pink Floyd seeped through the wall from the room next to mine:

Camerado, this is no book,

Who touches this touches a man,

(Is it night? are we here alone together?)

It is I you hold and who holds you,

I spring from the pages into your arms. . . .

Never before had a writer leaped off the page and touched me like that: directly, personally, erotically. It was my first experience of literature's ability to telescope time—to forcefully remind the living that the no-longer-living were not only once as alive as we are now but were capable of imagining us, and a future with us in it, as vividly as we imagine them in the past. If it didn't quite tear a hole in the fabric of mortality, it stretched it a considerable distance.

...

Copyright © 2006 by Mare Vaporum Corp

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Table of Contents

Introduction by Michael Cunningham

Poetry

Selection from Leaves of Grass, The First Edition, 1855

"I celebrate myself"

Selections from Leaves of Grass, The Final Edition, 1891-1892

From "Inscriptions"

Poets to Come

From "Children of Adam"

I Sing the Body Electric (first stanza)

From "Calamus"

City of Orgies

To a Stranger

Full of Life Now

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Song of the Answerer (first stanza)

Song of the Broad-Axe (fourth stanza)

From "Birds of Passage"

To You

From "Sea Drift"

Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

From "Drum-Taps"

Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun

From "Autumn Rivulets"

There Was a Child Went Forth

Laws for Creations

The Sleepers (first stanza)

From "Whispers of Heavenly Death"

Whispers of Heavenly Death

O Living Always, Always Dying

From "From Noon to Starry Night"

Mannahatta

As I Walk These Broad Majectic Days

A Clear Midnight

From "Songs of Parting"

As the Time Draws Nigh

My Legacy

So Long!

Prose

Selections from Specimen Days, 1882-1883

Opening of the Secession War

A Secesh Brave

A Night Battle, Over a Week Since

Battle of Gettysburg

Death of a Hero

Thoughts Under an Oak—A Dream

New Senses—New Joys

Nature and Democracy—Morality

Selections from Collect, 1882-1883

Darwinism—(Then Furthermore)

Monuments—The Past and the Present

The Last Collective Compaction

Preface to Leaves of Grass, The Final Edition, 1891-1892: A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads

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