Cunningham follows The Green Age of Asher Witherow(2004) with a dense novelization of the life of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. An account of Rilke's baptism gives over to a chronicle of his time in Paris, where he ruminates on life and befriends sculptor Auguste Rodin. From Rodin's residence, the narrative episodically follows Rilke from his days as a sickly military cadet and his meeting the writer Lou Andreas-Salomehis muse with whom he travels widelyto an interlude with Lord Chamberlain's skeleton in a crypt and eventually to the double heartbreak of Rilke's father's death and his final parting with Rodin, which inspires the poet to wall himself away behind his writer's desk. Cunningham is a talented writer, although unwelcome shifts into second-person and passages rife with adjective abuse mar this ambitious undertaking. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Lost Sonby M Allen Cunningham
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Spanning western Europe from 1875 to 1917 and presenting a gothic historical Paris that subverts our old assumptions regarding the City of Light, M. Allen Cunningham's new novel brings a brooding atmosphere and human complexity to an intimate and imaginative portrait of one of the most uniquely sensitive artists of his time, a poet whose odd childhood and difficult early life will both fascinate and perhaps help explain his determination to stay true to his artistic vision at almost any cost. Here is Rainer Maria Rilke in the grip of his greatest artistic struggle: life itself.
Rilke's gripping emotional drama as child, lover, husband, father, protégé, misfit soldier, and wanderer is framed by a haunted young figure, a researcher who, a century later, feels compelled to trace Rilke's itinerant footsteps and those of Rilke's fictional alter ego, the bewitched poet Malte Laurids Brigge. The result is an exploration of the forever imperfect loyalties we face in work and life, the seemingly immeasurable distances that can separate life and art, and the generational tensions between masters and admirers.
Cunningham's second novel (after The Green Age of Asher Witherow) focuses on poet Rainier Maria Rilke's life at the turn of the 19th century, when he was involved with international beauty Lou Andreas-Salomé and then married sculptor Clara Westhoff. Rilke travels to Paris to research a book on Auguste Rodin and stays at the artist's studio, leaving his wife and baby daughter behind in Germany. Inspiration and poetry come to Rilke suddenly and inexplicably, leaving him groping to adjust to his own genius. He wanders Europe, desperately seeking time and space for his creative energies to emerge and battling illness, as always. He is inspired to write a novel, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, the tale of a young man in pursuit of life and meaning. Cunningham's novel follows Rilke up to World War I, when he begins work on the Duino Elegies, and touches on his service in the Austrian army. Far from totally sympathetic or heroic, Rilke emerges as a strange, hyperconscious, androgynous specter in a bizarre world. Cunningham has taken risks, attempting to paint Rilke in the poet's own words and style, and he has succeeded in producing an offbeat and absorbing literary work. Recommended for larger fiction collections.
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Meet the Author
M. Allen Cunningham is also the author of the novel Lost Son. His short fiction has also appeared in a number of literary magazines, including Glimmer Train, Boulevard, and Epoch. He grew up in California, living for nearly two decades in the Diablo Valley north of San Francisco, and now resides with his wife in Portland, Oregon.
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In 1902, twenty-six-year-old Rainer Maria Rilke has received a commission to write the definitive biography of the great sculptor Auguste Rodin. Accepting the work, Rainer leaves his wife and their newborn daughter behind in rural Germany seventeen grueling travel hours away from his new residence in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. The rustic writer is overwhelmed by the city with its affluence and poverty side by side. He feels overwhelmed as his childhood nightmares of being a stranger amidst strange people frighten him, but mostly he fears failure as a poet, as a biographer, and as a writer. His abandoned family females give him moments of concern, but they tie back to his childhood, which he needs to escape from and find with his poetry and with his writing peer and muse Lou Salome. --- This is an insightful biographical fiction of Rainer Maria Rilke, considered by many to be Germany¿s greatest twentieth century poet. The story line focuses obviously on Rilke from the opening baptism in Prague to his schism with Rodin in Paris, but also provides a discerning window into the artistic movements of Western Europe during the tumultuous first two decades of the twentieth century. The not chronological in order events lead to a more vivid astute look at the period, but also make it more difficult to follow the prime focus of the novel, the life of Rilke. This is an entertaining account of a poet whose haunting dark work makes many consider Rilke as having one foot within the competing classical and another with the modernist movements. --- Harriet Klausner