Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Hours

The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, won the Pulitzer in 1999 and was made into a movie in 2002 - practically everyone involved was nominated for Oscars and Nicole Kidman won Best Actress for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf. Usually I trust the ol' Pulitzer committee, but I've avoided The Hours for some time, because at first I didn't like the movie - I thought it was really depressing. But, the movie was on television a couple of times and I found myself really enjoying it.

The Hours is based on Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway - I've only read about half of it. It's gorgeous, but I can't seem to commit. Cunningham's ability to "borrow" from Mrs. Dalloway without being derivative or (worse!) boring is brilliant, especially in the first chapter or two of the book, in which the late 20th century Mrs. Dalloway "buy(s) the flowers herself."

With strong feminist and homosexual themes, The Hours might initially seem out of step with Woolf's 1925 novel, but, of course, those themes are present in Mrs. Dalloway as well. Cunningham writes convincingly from a female perspective, and shows a sensitivity toward feminist issues. It struck me as bizarre, actually, that the book could possibly be written by a man.

I enjoyed the book, but it's so similar to the movie it's kind of like reading a screenplay. In any event, it can be read very quickly - I finished it in little more than a few hours. Obviously no replacement for Woolf's book, it certainly enhances her writing. Who knows, one day I may be able to finish Mrs. Dalloway.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I have also tried to read Mrs. Dalloway more than once! It's one of those books I'm going to pick up again in retirement when I have the patience and life experience to get through it.

You should add The Hours to your Nexflix que for some great bonus features, or you can watch my copy the next time you come to visit.