‘By the Book’ with Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham Thinks Most People Misunderstand ‘Lolita’

Granted, says the author of books including “The Hours” and “A Wild Swan,” it’s “about a sociopathic predatory pedophilic rapist.” But it’s also “a messed-up love story right out of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’”

What books are on your nightstand?

I have to say that I’m not only answering these questions at what is not yet the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that I fear they’ll be read before the virus is in any way under control.

Living as I do, as we all do, in relative isolation, I’ve got a lot of books on my nightstand. They include:

“Ducks, Newburyport,” by Lucy Ellmann, “This Is Pleasure,” by Mary Gaitskill, “Lot,” by Bryan Washington, and James Salter’s “Light Years,” which I read every few years. That’s the fiction. Poetry: Robert Hass’s “Summer Snow,” Marie Howe’s “Magdalene,” Sharon Olds’s “Arias.” There’s also Peter Schjeldahl’s collection of art reviews, “Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light,” and, for the smallish cohort of my fellow geeks: Sam Wasson’s “The Big Goodbye,” a 400-page tome on the making of the movie “Chinatown.”

What’s the last great book you read?

George Saunders’s “Lincoln in the Bardo.” Read the full interview at The New York Times.

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