Thursday, August 05, 2004

A Home at the End of the World

It shimmered. That was the first thing I noticed. Its molecules seemed more excited; things shivered and gleamed in a way that made them hard to see. The buildings and streets put out more light than the sky sent down--it all broke up in front of you, so your vision only caught the fragments. Cleveland offered itself differently, in bigger pieces. There you saw a billboard, a cloud, an elm standing over its own fat shadow. Here, my first ten minutes in New York, I could only be sure of seeing a woman's red straw hat, a flock of pigeons, and a pale neon sign that said LOLA. Everything else was an ongoing explosion, the city blowing itself to bits, over and over again.

-Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World

Michael Cunningham is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. I loved - loved - The Hours. I saw the trailer for A Home at the End of the World and recognized the plot from what I'd read on the back of the book one day in the bookstore. I knew I'd have to read it fast, before I heard anything else about the movie. The movie version of The Hours was incredible - a very good movie, but not quite as good a movie as the book was a book.

Whether the movie of Home brought the book to life or maimed it, I wanted to have read it first. I'm glad I did. What Cunningham does best is describe the small, complicated feelings that drive people, that are too uncertain for most people to share with anyone, that make a person uneasy about herself and her place in the world. There's a scene at the beginning of Home where a young mother, home alone with her son, transplanted from New Orleans to Cleveland, looks out the window, "waiting for a moment when the frozen landscape might resolve itself into something ordinary she could trust as placidly as did the solid, rollicking Ohio mothers who piloted enormous cars loaded with groceries, babies, elderly relations." She asks her five-year-old son what he is thinking. She asks him to tell her a story. She asks him to tell her another, something funny.

Anyway, this book really resonated with me.


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