His books were like vaccines

By the time Michael Cunningham showed up to talk with my students they were already in love with him — with the prose of The Hours (but, to be sure, we’d read each of C’s novels). But there he was in person: kind as could be, ready to listen to these young people, and he had on a great pair of boots, with a heel and a seriously shitkicking pointed toe. The kids were knocked out. That was 2002 and the scene of Michael’s entrance into the room of expectant, bright but ready-to-be-wowed eighteen–twenty-two year olds is what I remember. Now I’ve gone back to listen to his reading (he read from The Hours) and the interview/conversation I conducted the next day, and realize what good content there was too. Dan Fishback, now a pretty successful political comic writer/performer in New York, gave the introduction — and we’ve preserved the text of it. It begins:

I signed up for this class in a kind of prideless, bumbling squirt — I emailed Al, “Cunningham is my personal Jesus, you have to let me in, you have to, you have to.” But then I calmed down, because I realized I’d be taking these books into the realm of other people — and new perspectives seemed dangerous somehow. Just before I came to college, I read A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, and The Hours; and they were like … vaccines.