October 4th, 2010 | Uncategorized

Michael Cunningham talks teaching

Books and cake are only sometimes analogous to each other, novelist Michael Cunningham, a senior lecturer in the English Department, wrote in the New York Times on Sunday.

In his piece Cunningham, quite a presence in the literary scene these days with the release of his new novel “By Nightfall,” talked teaching:

I teach writing, and one of the first questions I ask my students every semester is, who are you writing for? The answer, 9 times out of 10, is that they write for themselves. I tell them that I understand — that I go home every night, make an elaborate cake and eat it all by myself. By which I mean that cakes, and books, are meant to be presented to others. And further, that books (unlike cakes) are deep, elaborate interactions between writers and readers, albeit separated by time and space.

I remind them, as well, that no one wants to read their stories. There are a lot of other stories out there, and by now, in the 21st century, there’s been such an accumulation of literature that few of us will live long enough to read all the great stories and novels, never mind the pretty good ones. Not to mention the fact that we, as readers, are busy.

Tough love from a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Cunningham has also been recently chumming it up with another Yalie.