Interview with M. Allen Cunningham

Published 2014-06-14.
What is your writing process?
Agonize, agonize, sit down at the desk, agonize further, write (longhand first; keyboards later!), agonize, repeat. It's extremely rewarding work, though seldom purely enjoyable.
Who are your favorite authors?
James Baldwin, Joseph Brodsky, John Berger, Frederick Busch, Harriet Scott Chessman, Don DeLillo, Annie Dillard, Brian Hall, Sarah Hall, Thomas Hardy, Vaclav Havel, Hermann Hesse, Henry James, Thomas Mann, David Markson, Cormac McCarthy, Bruce Olds, Michael Ondaatje, Cynthia Ozick, Jayne Anne Phillips, Annie Proulx, Mary Ruefle, Rainer Maria Rilke, Susan Sontag, John Steinbeck, Wallace Stegner, Henry David Thoreau, John Updike, Patrick White, Thornton Wilder.
Describe your desk
A sanctuary, a sacrificial altar, it's the chief place I go to make sense of the world and my own existence. Importantly, there is no Internet service there. What there is is a lamp, a pile of notebooks, a cup full of pens and pencils, a reasonably comfortable chair, and, tacked up, taped up, or lying around, numerous scraps or index cards on which I've copied down words of counsel from fellow writers both living and long-dead. For instance, this one from John Beger's book Here Is Where We Meet: "You put something down and you don't know immediately what it is. It has always been like that. ... All you have to know is whether you're lying or whether you're telling the truth, you can't afford to make a mistake about that distinction any longer."
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, making notes, haunting the stacks of the local library, walking, bicycling, playing with my son.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Jack and the Beanstalk in an old paperback Alley Cat Books edition. I've still got the thing and it's in tatters (priced 5 cents on the cover). My grandmother would read it to me and my siblings every time we visited her. Forever embedded in my imagination are this book's marvelous pen and ink illustrations by John N------ (his name on the cover is half torn away). I referred to one such illustration in a short story I published in Boulevard Magazine some years ago, "The Giant's Face." Jack's brazenly wise/naive belief in the value of magic over money was a formative influence. His adventures in the clouds surely vindicated him, and I pray mine will do the same for me.
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Books by This Author

The Giant's Face, A Short Story
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,590. Language: English. Published: June 13, 2014 . Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Only when you’re young and small do you fully understand the bigness of things. Originally published in Boulevard Magazine, “The Giant’s Face" is a 1,300-word short story by M. Allen Cunningham, author of the novel The Green Age of Asher Witherow, the novel Lost Son, and the illustrated limited-edition story collection Date of Disappearance.
The Caretaker's Gleanings: An Essay
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,240. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2014 . Categories: Essay » Literature
Culled from notes kept during one strange autumn and winter in which M. Allen Cunningham resided in a barn, "The Caretaker's Gleanings" ruminates on the nocturnal mysteries of a creaturely life.
The Man in the Blue Coat: A Chamber Picture in Six Acts, A Short Story
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 4,080. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2014 . Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Surreal and whimsical, "The Man in the Blue Coat" is a 4,100-word story about the inner life and the seemingly infinite distances between ourselves and others.
Chimera: A Short Story
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 7,510. Language: English. Published: June 5, 2014 . Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
"Chimera" is a 7,500-word short story about the human capacity for failure and faith.
Prose Conjuration: The Art of Reading Cormac McCarthy
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 2,640. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2014 . Categories: Essay » Literature
In this 2,700-word essay, first published in Poets & Writers Magazine in 2007, avid McCarthy fan M. Allen Cunningham considers the author's entire corpus and the trajectory of his reputation.