Books at the Box Office: The Hours

I wanted my second post in this new series to be about a book/movie pairing that strangely became a part of my life in college! When I was first thinking about college, I wanted to be a comparative literature major and study under Orhan Pamuk. Then, I decided I was not emotionally stable enough to have Nobel Prize winning Orham Pamuk critique anything I would ever write. Eventually, I went to Yale, become an English major, and had to grow some balls because I got into a creative writing seminar with Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Hours. I say grow some balls not because he was mean–he wasn’t, he was nice and thoughtful with his critiques and honestly inspiring–but because I was terrified. That was my own fault. And so, I read The Hours to prepare myself in case there was like…a quiz or something on the first day of class. There wasn’t, but I was amazed by the novel and now I get why people talk about it STILL, almost 20 years later. It’s not only well-written but it’s heavy with literary values and the movie did it justice, in my opinion.

From the Picador Modern Classics edition,

In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf’s last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.

The movie was a daunting experience for me, mostly because of the cast. Can you imagine someone having SUCH CONFIDENCE in your writing that they cast Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman in the three main roles? It got NINE Oscar Nominations, for crying out loud, and one win–for Nicole Kidman. Also, Philip freaking Glass did the score.

The movie translates the novel well, seamlessly interweaving the three timelines and stories. It’s heavy, the acting is well-done, and you’ll not be able to look away once you’re in.  Anyway, I’m super excited to reread The Hours as one of my DAR book club picks this summer, and we’ll be watching the movie as well. What a great pairing.

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