|Photo by Joshua Simpson for FSG Work in Progress|
A little while back, I asked Elliott Holt – whose first novel You Are One of Them will be published by The Penguin Press in 2013 – to contribute a piece to my Literary Style series. Luckily she accepted. Here she shares some thoughts on her mentor Michael Cunningham's style.
Michael Cunningham is a self-described "language crank," but his aesthetic sensibility also extends to his personal style. Michael was my teacher in the MFA program at Brooklyn College and I appreciate his clothes as much as his intellect. I had already devoured his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours, when I arrived for my first class with him in 2004. I was intimidated at first because Michael has presence. When he is in a room, it's hard to take your eyes off him. He is tall and rangy and ruggedly handsome. Every gesture is confident. He fills the space. One could easily mistake him for a rock star because he makes everything he wears look effortlessly cool. He is at home in a leather jacket. He tends to wear jeans, t-shirts, and boots. But not just any boots. He once told me that he buys them from an Austrian designer in Milan, who buries the boots in his backyard for a few weeks after he makes them to give them an authentic weathered appearance. It makes sense to me that Michael, whose writing shows such attention to craftsmanship, would choose boots with a narrative. I don't know the name of the designer, but I like to imagine his garden full of boots, their leather tongues mellowing in the soil, waiting to be harvested, waiting to hold feet. Michael says the boots "only get better with age." That's true of great literature, too.
Thank you, Elliott!
Previously on Literary Style: Zadie Smith, James Ellroy, Joan Didion (I & II), Simone de Beauvoir, Eudora Welty and Virginia Woolf (in a rented bathing suit).