Michael Cunningham quotes

  • She could have had a life as potent and dangerous as literature itself.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Literature #Dangerous

  • I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I... I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more...never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Morning #Thinking #Feelings

  • The secret of flight is this -- you have to do it immediately, before your body realizes it is defying the laws.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Law #Secret #Body

  • Dear Leonard. To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard. Always the years between us. Always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Years #Lasts #Faces

  • There is a beauty in the world, though it's harsher than we expect it to be.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #World

  • we become the stories we tell ourselves
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Stories

  • I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Beautiful #Way #Different

  • Take me with you. I want a doomed love. I want streets at night, wind and rain, no one wondering where I am.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Rain #Night #Wind

  • Venture too far for love, she tells herself, and you renounce citizenship in the country you've made for yourself.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Country #Venture #Citizenship

  • One always has a better book in one's mind than one can manage to get onto paper.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Reading #Writing

  • She is overtaken by a sensation of unbeing. There is no other word for it.
    -- Michael Cunningham

  • What do you do when you're no longer the hero of your own story?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Hero #Stories

  • A writer should always feel like he's in over his head
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Writing #Should #Feels

  • I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Writing #Optimistic #Thinking

  • What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Running #Morning #Simple

  • a certain bohemian, good-witch sort of charm
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Witch #Bohemian #Certain

  • What I want to say is that I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me & incredibly good. I want to say that - everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Thinking #Two #People

  • ..this indiscriminate love feels entirely serious to her, as if everything in the world is part of a vast, inscrutable intention and everything in the world has its own secret name, a name that cannot be conveyed in language but is simply the sight and feel of the thing itself.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Names #Sight #Secret

  • The vestibule door opens onto a June morning so fine and scrubbed Classira pauses at the threshold as she would at the edge of a pool, watching the turquoise water lapping at the tiles, the liquid nets of sun wavering in the blue depths. As if standing at the edge of a pool she delays for a moment the plunge, the quick membrane of chill, the plain shock of immersion.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Morning #Blue #Doors

  • The kiss was innocent--innocent enough--but it was also full of something not unlike what Virginia wants from London, from life; it was full of a love complex and ravenous, ancient, neither this nor that. It will serve as this afternoon's manifestation of the central mystery itself, the elusive brightness that shines from the edges of certain dreams; the brightness which, when we awaken, is already fading from our minds, and which we rise in the hope of finding, perhaps today, this new day in which anything might happen, anything at all.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Dream #Kissing #Virginia

  • If she were religious, she would call it the soul. It is more than the sum of her intellect and her emotions, more than the sum of her experiences, though it runs like veins of brilliant metal through all three. It is an inner faculty that recognizes the animating mysteries of the world because it is made of the same substance
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Running #Religious #Soul

  • Perhaps, in the extravagance of youth, we give away our devotions easily and all but arbitrarily, on the mistaken assumption that we’ll always have more to give.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Giving #Extravagance #Youth

  • There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Perfection #Perfect #Promise

  • What does it mean to regret when you have no choice? It's what you can bear. And there it is... It was death. I chose life.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Regret #Mean #Choices

  • Dead, we are revealed in our true dimensions, and they are surprisingly modest.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Death #Dimensions #Modest

  • There is just this for consolation: an hour here or there, when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined , though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning, we hope, more than anything, for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Morning #Children #Odds

  • . . . he felt himself entering a moment so real he could only run toward it, shouting.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Running #Real #Entering

  • These days, Clarissa believes, you measure people first by their kindness and their capacity for devotion. You get tired, sometimes, of wit and intellect; everybody's little display of genius.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Kindness #Believe #Tired

  • He insists on a version of you that is funnier, stranger, more eccentric and prfound thatn you suspect yourself to be--capable of doing more good and more harm in the world than you've ever imagined--it is all but impossible not to believe, at least in his presence and a while after you've left him, that he alone sees through your essence, weighs your true qualities . . . and appreciates you more fully than anyone else ever has.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Believe #Essence #Appreciate

  • She will remain sane and she will live as she was meant to live, richly and deeply, among others of her kind, in full possession and command of her gifts.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Kind #Possession #Command

  • What I wanted to do seemed simple. I wanted something alive and shocking enough that it could be a morning in somebody's life. The most ordinary morning. Imagine, trying to do that.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Morning #Simple #Trying

  • I encourage the translators of my books to take as much license as they feel that they need. This is not quite the heroic gesture it might seem, because I've learned, from working with translators over the years, that the original novel is, in a way, a translation itself.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Years #Needs

  • I revise constantly, as I go along and then again after I've finished a first draft. Few of my novels contain a single sentence that closely resembles the sentence I first set down. I just find that I have to keep zapping and zapping the English language until it starts to behave in some way that vaguely matches my intentions.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Way #Firsts #Language

  • The lives great artists live and the books they write are two very different things.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Writing #Artist

  • You can't find peace by avoiding life.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Peace #Finding Peace #Avoiding

  • Sure, go ahead, simulate life, using only ink and paper.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Ink #Paper

  • There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Inspirational #Odds #Giving

  • A certain slightly cruel disregard for the feelings of living people is simply part of the package. I think a writer, if hes any good, is not an entirely benign entity in the world.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Thinking #People #Feelings

  • I suspect any serious reader has a first great book, just the way anybody has a first kiss.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Kissing #Way

  • People are more than you think they are. And they're less, as well. The trick lies in negotiating your way between the two.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Lying #Thinking #Two

  • Language in fiction is made up of equal parts meaning and music. The sentences should have rhythm and cadence, they should engage and delight the inner ear.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Fiction #Delight #Ears

  • If you've really loved a book, or a movie for that matter, really loved it, what you want is that same book again, but as if you've never read it. And when you get something unfamiliar, you feel betrayed.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Want #Matter

  • As writers we must, from our very opening sentence, speak with authority to our readers.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Speak #Authority #Opening

  • Here's a secret. Many novelists, if they are pressed and if they are being honest, will admit that the finished book is a rather rough translation of the book they'd intended to write.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Writing #Secret

  • I just don't feel much interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Rich #Lifestyle #Feels

  • I have no useful theories about love and marriage.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Love And Marriage #Theory

  • Oh, all you immigrants and visionaries, what do you hope to find here, who do you hope to become?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Visionaries

  • It's the world, you live in it, even if some boy has made a fool of you.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Boys #World #Fool

  • Love is deep, a mystery - who wants to understand its every particular?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Love Is #Want #Mystery

  • Remember, how often the great art of the past didn't look great at first, how often it didn't look like art at all; how much easier it is, decades or centuries later, to adore it, not only because it is, in fact, great but because it's still here; because the inevitable little errors and infelicities tend to recede in an object that's survived the War of 1812, the eruption of Krakatoa, the rise and fall of Nazism.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Art #War #Fall

  • Silly humans. Banging on a tub to make a bear dance when we would move the stars to pity.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Stars #Moving #Silly

  • Here is the world, and you live in it, and are grateful. You try to be grateful.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Grateful #Trying #World

  • You grow weary of being treated as the enemy simply because you are not young anymore; because you dress unexceptionally.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Enemy #Dresses #Young

  • At the risk, then, of being shunned by some of my gloomier peers, I venture to tell you that writers work like demons, suffer greatly, and are also happy, in unmistakable ways, some of the time. If we had no knowledge of happiness, our novels wouldn't sufficiently resemble real life. Some of us are even made a little bit happy, on occasion, by the writing process itself. I mean, really, if there wasn't some sort of enjoyment to be derived, would any of us keep doing it?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Real #Mean #Writing

  • You have started the book with this bubble over your head that contains a cathedral full of fire - that contains a novel so vast and great and penetrating and bright and dark that it will put all other novels ever written to shame. And then, as you get towards the end, you begin to realise, no, it's just this book.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Dark #Fire

  • Virginia Woolf's great novel, 'Mrs. Dalloway,' is the first great book I ever read. I read it almost by accident when I was in high school, when I was 15 years old.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #School #Years

  • Virginia Woolf came along in the early part of the century and essentially said through her writing, yes, big books can be written about the traditional big subjects. There is war. There is the search for God. These are all very important things.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #War #Book #Writing

  • On a summer night it can be lovely to sit around outside with friends after dinner and, yes, read poetry to each other. Keats and Yeats will never let you down, but it's differently exciting to read the work of poets who are still walking around out there.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Summer #Night #Lovely

  • Like my hero Virginia Woolf, I do lack confidence. I always find that the novel I'm finishing, even if it's turned out fairly well, is not the novel I had in my mind. I think a lot of writers must negotiate this, and if they don't admit it, they're not being honest.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Hero #Thinking #Virginia

  • I know, speaking for myself, no matter what I'm able to do, no matter what book comes out and ends up on paper, I always had something bigger and grander in my head.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Paper #Matter

  • I seem to produce a novel approximately once every three years.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Years #Three #Produce

  • I love movies, I love television, I love narratives of all kinds.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Movie Love #Television #Narrative

  • I think of the people who commit these acts as children. They're in their 20s, but like certain children, they have been told only one story, over and over. Like most children, they believe in an easily identifiable good and evil, and like most children, they are capable of unthinkable cruelty.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Children #Believe #Thinking

  • All over China, parents tell their children to stop complaining and to finish their quadratic equations and trigonometric functions because there are sixty-five million American kids going to bed with no math at all.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Children #Kids #Math

  • That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #People #Alive #Staying Alive

  • Please, God, send me something to adore.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Adore #Please

  • Any other vexations to report?" he asks. "I love the word 'vexations.'" "It's the 'x.' Nice to jump off a 'v' and bite into an 'x' like that." "Just the usual ones," she says. "How was the weekend?" "Vexing. Not really, I just wanted to say it. You?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Nice #Weekend #Vexation

  • Insomniacs know better than anyone how it would be to haunt a house.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #House #Would Be #Insomniac

  • We always worry about the wrong things, don't we?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Worry

  • She is, above all else, tired; she wants more than anything to return to her bed and her book. The world, this world, feels suddenly stunned and stunted, far from everything.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Tired #World

  • Yes," she answers and does not move. She might, at this moment, be nothing but a floating intelligence; not even a brain inside a skull, just a presence that perceives, as a ghoast might. Yes, she thinks, this is probably how it must feel to be a ghost. It's a little like reading, isn't it-that same sensation of knowing people, settings, situations, without playing any particular part beyond that of the willing observer.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Moving #Reading #Thinking

  • I feel like there's something terrible and wonderful and amazing that's just beyond my grasp. I have dreams about it. I do dream, by the way. It hovers over me at odd moments. And then it's gone. I feel like I'm always on the brink of something that never arrives. I want to either have it or be free of it.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Dream #Want #Way

  • I don't know if I can face this. You know. The party and the ceremony, and then the hour after that, and the hour after that." "You don't have to go to the party. You don't have to go to the ceremony. You don't have to do anything at all." "But there are still the hours, aren't there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there's another. I'm so sick.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Party #Sick #Faces

  • Like the morning you walked out of that old house, when you were eighteen and I was, well, I had just turned nineteen, hadn't I? I was a nineteen-year-old and I was in love with Louis and I was in love with you, and I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful as the sight of you walking out a glass door in the early morning, still sleepy, in your underwear. Isn't it strange?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Beautiful #Morning #Love You

  • I don't have any regrets, really, except that one. I wanted to write about you, about us, really. Do you know what I mean? I wanted to write about everything, the life we're having and the lives we might have had. I wanted to write about all the ways we might have died.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Regret #Mean #Writing

  • I was living my own future and my brother's lost one as well. I represented him here just as he represented me there, in some unguessable other place. His move from life to death might resemble my stepping into the kitchen - into its soft nowhere quality and foggy hum. I breathed the dark air. If I had at that moment a sense of calm kindly death while my heart beat and my lungs expanded, he might know a similar sense of life in the middle of his ongoing death.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Brother #Moving #Heart

  • He wanted to tell her that he was inspired and vigilant and recklessly alone, that his body contained his unsteady heart and something else, something he felt but could not describe: porous and spiky, shifting with flecks of thought, with urge and memory; salted with brightness, flickerings of white and green and pale gold; something that loved stars because it was made of the same substance.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Stars #Memories #Heart

  • Her cake is a failure, but she is loved anyway. She is loved, she thinks, in more or less the way the gifts will be appreciated: because they have been given with good intentions , because they exist, because they are part of a world in which one wants what one gets.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Thinking #Cake #World

  • This is what you do. You make a future for yourself out of the raw material at hand.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Hands #Raw Materials #Materials

  • Accept that, like many men, you have a streak of the homoerotic in you. Why would you, why would anyone, want to be that straight?
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Men #Want #Accepting

  • Youth is the only sexy tragedy. It's James Dean jumping into his Porsche Spyder, it's Marilyn heading off to bed.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Sexy #Jumping #Tragedy

  • You want to give him the book of his own life, the book that will locate him, parent him, arm him for the changes.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Book #Giving #Parent

  • She'd never imagined it like this-when she thought of someone (a woman like herself)losing her mind, she'd imagined shrieks and wails, hallucinations; but at that moment it had seemed clear that there was another way, far quieter; a way that was numb and hopeless, flat, so much so that an emotion as strong as sorrow would have been a relief.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Strong #Mind #Sorrow

  • She thinks how much more space a being occupies in life than it does in death; how much illusion of size is contained in gestures and movements, in breathing. Dead, we are revealed in our true dimensions, and they are surprisingly modest.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Thinking #Breathing #Space

  • I am beginning to understand the true difference between youth and age. Young people have time to make plans and think of new ideas. Older people need their whole energy to keep up with what’s already been set in motion.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Thinking #Ideas #Differences

  • We’d hoped for love of a different kind, love that knew and forgave our human frailty but did not miniaturize our grander ideas of ourselves.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Ideas #Different #Kind

  • But there are still the hours, aren't there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there's another.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Hours #Stills

  • You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Finding Peace #Avoiding

  • That summer when she was eighteen, it seemed anything could happen, anything at all.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Summer #Eighteen

  • Maybe it’s not, in the end, the virtues of others that so wrenches our hearts as it is the sense of almost unbearably poignant recognition when we see them at their most base, in their sorrow and gluttony and foolishness. You need the virtues, too—some sort of virtues—but we don’t care about Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina or Raskolnikov because they’re good. We care about them because they’re not admirable, because they’re us, and because great writers have forgiven them for it.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Heart #Sorrow #Needs

  • What she wants to say has to do not only with joy but with the penetrating, constant fear that is joy's other half.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Fear #Joy #Other Half

  • A stray fact: insects are not drawn to candle flames, they are drawn to the light on the far side of the flame, they go into the flame and sizzle to nothingness because they're so eager to get to the light on the other side.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Light #Flames #Facts

  • Man," he said, "I'm not afraid of graveyards. The dead are just, you know, people who wanted the same things you and I want." "What do we want?" I asked blurrily. "Aw, man, you know," he said. "We just want, well, the same things these people wanted." "What was that?" He shrugged. "To live, I guess," he said.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Men #People #Want

  • He's one of those smart, drifty young people who, after certain deliberations, decides he wants to do Something in the Arts but won't, possibly can't, think in terms of an actual job; who seems to imagine that youth and brains and willingness will simply summon an occupation, the precise and perfect nature of which will reveal itself in its own time.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Art #Jobs #Thinking

  • We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep--it's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Party #Struggle #Book

  • I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Thinking #Two #People

  • She is not a writer at all, really; she is merely a gifted eccentric.
    -- Michael Cunningham

    #Eccentric #Gifted