以下是澳大利亚广播公司（Australia Broadcasting Cooperate）国家广播电台“书籍与写作”（Books and Writing）栏目记者罗蒙娜?库法尔主持的节目中，邀请林恩?加拉赫就《典型的日子》对迈克尔?坎宁安所作的访谈。
Michael Cunningham: Specimen Days (transcript available)
Michael Cunningham's new book Specimen Days is a surprise. It's a book in three genres. But because of the success of his previous book, The Hours, about Virginia Woolf, he seems to be able to get away with it.
This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying speakers.
Ramona Koval: Michael Cunningham's new book Specimen Days is a surprise. It's a book in three genres, but because of the success of his previous book The Hours, about Virginia Woolf, he seems to be able to get away with it. The Hours won Cunningham both the Pulitzer prize and the PEN/Faulkner award, and as I'm sure you're aware, it was adapted into an Academy award-winning film. So how does a writer follow up on success like that, particularly if he's living in New York and feels the need to reflect on life after 9/11.
Michael Cunningham is in Adelaide as a guest of Writers' Week, but on his way, he visited our Melbourne studios to speak with Lyn Gallacher. He begins his conversation by describing the structure of the book and reading a passage from Specimen Days.
Michael Cunningham: Specimen Days is written in three parts. The first is a ghost story set in New York City in the mid-1800s. The second is a thriller set in present-day New York just after 9/11; and the third is a science-fiction story set in the future. And it specifically involves-well I'll just have to say it-an android who falls in love with a lizard woman from another planet. All right, there it is. And this sort of manufactured man has a chip implanted in his brain that causes him to spontaneously quote from Walt Whitman.
Lyn Gallacher: So let's hear a passage, about why poetry...
Michael Cunningham: He has travelled to Colorado and met his maker, essentially, the scientist who actually designed him and implanted this poetry chip in his brain. And this is the scientist speaking at first.
[Reading from: All right. In the third protocol I gave you poetry... to ...I do not know what it is, any more than he..]
Lyn Gallacher: Michael Cunningham, reading there from Specimen Days. Michael, welcome to The Book Show.
Michael Cunningham: Thank you.
Lyn Gallacher: Now what we heard there was characters who keep spouting poetry. Now it's a wonderful literary device, that, to actually be saying something you don't yourself want to say. So how much fun was that to play with, as a writer?
Michael Cunningham: It was great fun, up to a point. I'm sorry to say that I feel that, as a writer, if you're having too much fun you're probably not working hard enough. But yes, it was great fun to write about androids and lizard women from other planets, and people with poetry chips in their brains.
Lyn Gallacher: And the idea of saying something you can't control, that spurts out of your mouth. And yet it happens to be Whitman. Why Whitman?
Michael Cunningham: I added Whitman in the first section of the novel, which is the ghost story set in the 1850s. I wasn't going to put Whitman or any great writer into this book, if for no other reason than the fact that it's the book that follows my novel The Hours, which concerns Virginia Woolf, and I didn't want it to look like...
Lyn Gallacher: This is a formula...
Michael Cunningham: Yes, like I've made a fortune out of Virginia Woolf and let's see if I can make a few bucks out of Walt Whitman. But as I researched New York City in 1850, where the first story is set, among poor Irish immigrants, I came quickly to understand that it was a truly terrible place if you were poor and Irish. Think Calcutta; it was filthy and noisy and dangerous and there were dead dogs lying in the streets that no-one bothered to take away. And I was struck by the fact that out of that terrible and squalid place rose Walt Whitman, to my mind the greatest American poet and our great ecstatic visionary Rumi, the 12th century Persian poet who praised everything in the world, and out of that came Walt Whitman saying, essentially, I find it all magnificent, and strange, and marvellous, all of it, all of it-it's all part of a vast poem too big for any one man or woman to write. And I thought, I can't leave that out.
Lyn Gallacher: And it's a celebration of himself, a celebration of America. But you've not done that. In your inclusion of Whitman you've not celebrated America. You're fairly down on America, so it's interesting to have these characters spouting this poetry, almost in a non sequitur kind of fashion. And there's this idea of beauty that doesn't really go anywhere, because your vision is much darker.
Michael Cunningham: Well Whitman is there in part for contrast. And the America that Whitman praised, though it had its problems, was a nation that looked, 150 years ago, like it might very well be going through certain growing pains on its way toward becoming the most abundant, democratic, peace-loving nation the world had ever seen. It has not, in my opinion, turned out to be that sort of nation at all. I can't imagine living in America now and feeling all optimistic and happy about the way things are. So Whitman is there in part for contrast, as a voice of an old America that has gone terribly awry.
Lyn Gallacher: And that's one of the other interesting things, because you've got this idea of optimism within the pessimism, the situation that in all three parts of the novel is pretty bleak. And yet you're saying that inside this kind of terrible situation people find hope. But the hope's still so kind of self-annihilating. The hope doesn't actually lead to revolutionary social change. It doesn't improve the world.
Michael Cunningham: Not in this book. But I will say that most of my books are fairly dark and I think of them all as profoundly optimistic. My books always end-or have until now-with life going on, even if it's one man who's not exactly a man riding out into the wilderness to see what he can find. I'm only interested in the sort of optimism that can survive the worst that can happen to people.
Lyn Gallacher: Now that optimism is based on emotions. Now the man who in this story rides off into the wilderness (on a horse rather than a spaceship) is an android who is learning his own experience of emotion; he has to learn them rather than have them programmed. So it's almost as if the moral of the story is, become human by experiencing your emotions.
Michael Cunningham: Absolutely, yes.
Lyn Gallacher: Except for your aggression inhibitor. Now apparently we want to also experience even aggression.
Michael Cunningham: Oh absolutely. I think that what we're here to do is experience the full range of emotions. And there is in America right now a sort of epidemic of cheerfulness.
Lyn Gallacher: You say that with gritted teeth.
Michael Cunningham: Because I think it's false. I think it involves sweeping ... 'Have a good day...have a good life...' I am not in any way opposed to human happiness. I'm entirely in favour of human happiness. But if you fixate on happiness to the exclusion of every single one of the darker, more difficult emotions, I think you miss a great deal of the richness of human life.
Lyn Gallacher: And it's as if that happiness is a goal in itself. So long as you're happy, that's the main thing.
Michael Cunningham: Yes. I can't tell you how many people came up to me after I would read from The Hours and say something to the effect of, I wasn't going to read The Hours because I was afraid it would be depressing, and then 75 of my friends told me that it wouldn't be that depressing and so I decided to take a chance. And I would look at these people and think, so your purchase on wellbeing feels so precarious that you think a book is going to topple you over into some kind of pit from which you won't be able to return? That doesn't feel like a healthy state of mind to me.
Lyn Gallacher: Especially for you as a writer. Your writerly self must somehow know that you have to kind of experience all those emotions in order to be able to put them down on the page.
Michael Cunningham: Absolutely. And I'm writing for a reader who is unafraid to experience a wide range of emotions.
Lyn Gallacher: All right. Now the other thing we have to discuss is that you wrote this after September 11, and it's a very brave book to write in the wake of that terror, because you've got a suicide bomber who you make the audience feel sorry for, or feel sympathy with. That is very courageous.
Michael Cunningham: I think it is the job of the novelist, and I think the novelist is probably uniquely qualified to do this particular job, to help us all understand what it's like to be whoever one is in the world. If it's the job of the politician and the citizen to prevent terrorism, it's the job of the writer to try to penetrate the mind of a terrorist and understand how everybody is the hero of his or her own story. Whatever you do in the world, you go home at night and think, well, another day's good work done.
Lyn Gallacher: The terrifying thing about these particular bombings was that they appeared to have no meaning. Now is that so, is that what scares people?
Michael Cunningham: Yes, I think certainly part of what was so terrifying to Americans about 9/11, apart from the fact that it was the first time America had ever been assaulted except Pearl Harbor in Hawaii at the start of world war two. People didn't get it. People didn't understand why anyone would want to do something like that.
Lyn Gallacher: Whereas if it was your mother-in-law that wanted to kill you, you could understand that. You've had horrible Christmases for the last 20 years.
Michael Cunningham: Right. Why did she decide to kill me? Oh, well, last Christmas...
Lyn Gallacher: But a random act is too hard for the human mind
Michael Cunningham: It is. Absolutely. And it implies that you're not safe anywhere. It implies that there is nothing you can do. There are no virtuous acts that make you invulnerable. It's much more frightening.
Lyn Gallacher: Now these children that are on the children's crusade and do the random bombings, they're also motivated by Whitman and the detective, in order to solve the crime, has to understand Whitman's message to the reader. Now this is a little bit of reader response theory for our listeners, because the academic who the copper turns to says, well you can read Whitman any way you like. And there is no point in which Whitman can be read to advocate children becoming suicide bombers, is there?
Michael Cunningham: No. Not according to my reading of Whitman. I do think that all great art is enormously powerful and can be interpreted any number of ways. Hitler was a great fan of Wagner. Many of the monsters of history were also patrons of the arts. And I think it's a kind of dark tribute to the power of art that it can be interpreted in so many ways-including some very twisted and destructive ways.
Lyn Gallacher: So the children who are carrying out these crusades, they talk about the machine, which makes sense in the first part of the novel, because the machine is clearly the industrial age. But in the second part, which is present-day New York, what is the machine?
Michael Cunningham: The machine that these poor, deluded children are talking about is simply the machinery of the 21st century, this kind of vast, technological, industrial society, in which it is difficult to feel like a meaningful member, in which it's difficult to do work that feels like it matters. They are trying, in their deluded way, to bring down this vast, inhuman, corporate mechanism.
Lyn Gallacher: And is that something you feel yourself?
Michael Cunningham: Not really. I love cities.
Lyn Gallacher: They don't disempower you...
Michael Cunningham: No. I feel if anything they provide a constant reminder-I live in New York, one of the larger, nastier cities in the world-and I feel like it constantly reminds me of my place in the world, which is what it is. I think if as a writer I lived in a little cottage in the country, it would be easy to overestimate what I'm doing. It's important to remember that books are hugely important and they are simply part of a much bigger picture, and you should keep that in mind.
Lyn Gallacher: All right. So bearing that in mind, then the machine in the third part of the novel, which is set in the future, the machine is almost us. You've got an android character, and then as you were saying, the role of poetry in that is slightly different.
Michael Cunningham: Yes. The three stories follow a chain of progressive dehumanisation, until we end with a future in which our protagonist is literally a machine, and is trying to learn humanity.
Lyn Gallacher: So what is the role of religion in all this, because you've called your characters very religious names; Luke, Simon and Catherine. And some of the characters have prophetic wisdom; they can predict the future. Then you've got re-occurring mystical symbols, like the china bowl. And you've got this kind of ecstatic belief in life after death coming from one of the characters. You say an orgasm is only kind of a hint at the loss of our self-awareness that we'll experience after death. Where does all that come from?
Michael Cunningham: You know, I'm not especially religious myself, though I do feel drawn to-how to put this-something in people that wants to worship at least as much as it wants to shop. The religious impulse is fascinating and commendable to me. Its actually playing out is often disquieting. Bottom line really is that I can't quite imagine setting a novel in America right now, America being run as it is by religious fanatics, without including religion. It simply belonged in there.
Lyn Gallacher: So you don't think you've been influenced in a more obvious way by some of the religious right's belief in a better world comes from the idea that the better world will come after this one is completely abandoned. So that really conservative view of, well everything here is rubbish but we hope for a better life after death; the second coming-all that kind of apocalyptic thinking. Are you influenced by that?
Michael Cunningham: I'm certainly influenced by it. I don't feel particularly sympathetic toward it. I might like it better if the members of the religious right didn't insist so obdurately on salvation for themselves and the active persecution of anyone who is in any way different from them. If it felt genuinely kind and genuinely like a good force in the world, I'd be right there with them. I might even join. No, I actually think religious fundamentalism-and not just Christian fundamentalism-is probably the most dangerous force at work in the world today. But again, as a writer of fiction, I'm interested in how that feeling resides in people. And so I did produce a character who is a genuinely religious person and who finds great solace and a kind of ecstasy in it.
Lyn Gallacher: And who also importantly abandons this world in order to start up another one, which is what I'm wondering about you. Have you given up on this world? It does seem to be a pretty miserable heap. It always was kind of pretty rooted in the industrial age. The current age is not much chop. And you abandon this for another planet.
Michael Cunningham: In the book, yes. I am really kind of a sap when it gets right down to it, and if anything I probably write the way I do to offset my own sentimentality. I deeply believe that as long as there is one person alive, there is hope for a better future. Of course I worry. Look at the world. Of course I worry about where it's headed and what we and our children and our children's children may live to see. But I'll be right in there until they take me away.
Lyn Gallacher: And is that part of the poetry?
Michael Cunningham: Absolutely. Whitman, and any great poet, any great artist, is producing something that I believe survives, and has a kind of holiness about it, a kind of immortality about it. A great poem is still here, long after Keats, and Yeats and everyone who knew them are dead. It is our way of speaking to each other from generation to generation.
Lyn Gallacher: And becoming human.
Michael Cunningham: Yes. It's part of what keeps us human.
Lyn Gallacher: A question about the actual research that you did into the history of New York. You obviously had a good time researching the first part of the novel.
Michael Cunningham: Yes
Lyn Gallacher: How much of that affected your portrayal of the future?
Michael Cunningham: Oh, very much. I was quite conscious of trying to imagine a future that was a logical extension of life in 1950. That's what the future is, it's a result of our past and present actions.
Lyn Gallacher: So you even did detailed research that didn't make it into the book about what kind of underwear they were wearing.
Michael Cunningham: This is one of the pitfalls of writing any novel that involves a great deal of research. You learn fascinating things that you are just dying to put in, whether it be the kind of underwear people had on, or the particulars of trash collection. And you have to be ruthless with yourself and remind yourself that the three-page section about how water travelled from Croton down to New York simply doesn't belong, even though you know it and are quite proud of it and find it interesting.
Oh, here's a great chance to have a brief pedantic moment about things that I learned that I couldn't put into the book. One in particular, it took a full generation after the beginning of industrialisation to get the workers to understand that they had to show up at the same time every single day. They had been farmers. They had worked according to the seasons, according to their needs; and it was almost impossible to get them to understand that they had to come to work tomorrow even though they have enough money for now and they'd like to take a little time off. And there was a campaign-I'm not making this up-there was a campaign on the part of people who owned factories and other kinds of businesses, to equate poverty with shame. Until then poverty was a little bit like cancer, it just got some people. The rain didn't come, your crops didn't come up and you were afflicted by poverty, the way one is afflicted by a disease. But people who aren't ashamed of poverty can't be relied on to show up for work every day. And so the invention, about 150 years ago, of poverty as a shameful condition, and so the resentment of people on the street begging for change-damn you, if you'd been a better person you wouldn't be in this condition. That's a relatively recent thing, as it turns out.
Lyn Gallacher: The implications of that, then, for also time, are astonishing, that that shame means that we have to also turn up and behave in this sort of way, and we are in fact becoming mechanised individuals with pre-programmed emotional responses to things.
Michael Cunningham: Absolutely.
Lyn Gallacher: Which is exactly the future that you foretold. But when you introduced this book you were a little bit hesitant about saying that the third section is science-fiction. Some of your readers have been caught a little bit short by that. Do you think it's because they weren't expecting you to change genres in the middle?
Michael Cunningham: I think it's partly that. And I've also come to understand that many readers are perfectly willing to hear a ghost story or a detective story-that there is a kind of, if not honourable tradition in those genres, at least a certain unabashed interest. Science-fiction, on the other hand, is repellent to a surprising number of readers. I think the fear is that it will be inhuman, it will be just technological, it will be pure fantasy and have no bearing on actual human life. And ironically, I think some of the most interesting fiction being written today is in the field of science-fiction, which is being largely unread by many people, because it's in that section over there, where no-one ever goes.
Lyn Gallacher: Michael Cunningham, thank you very much for joining us on The Book Show.
Michael Cunningham: Thank you.
Ramona Koval: Michael Cunningham there. Wasn't that interesting about poverty and shame. And having fun there with Lyn Gallacher about Specimen Days, and if you recognised the title as coming from Walt Whitman, you'd be right. Specimen Days is published by Harper Collins
迈克尔?坎宁安：我把惠特曼加入到小说的第一部分, 这是发生在 19世纪50 年代中期的鬼故事，如果仅仅是为了效仿自己那部关于弗吉尼亚?伍尔夫的小说《时时刻刻》，我是不会把惠特曼或者其他任何伟大作家放入本书的，我不想让小说看上去像是……
迈克尔?坎宁安：对,就好像已经借弗吉尼亚?伍尔夫赚了钱，现在再看看能不能借惠特曼再赚点钱。我在研究19世纪50 年代纽约贫困的爱尔兰移民，也就是我第一个故事发生的背景时，很快发现，假如你即贫穷又是爱尔兰人，那时的纽约之于你，无异是地狱。想象一下加尔各答，那里污秽、吵杂、危险，街头死狗遍地，人们都不屑拖走它们。我惊异，这样恐怖、肮脏的地方竟出了沃尔特?惠特曼，我以为的美国最伟大的诗人。12世纪的波斯诗人、心醉神迷的空想家鲁米 赞美世界万物，沃尔特?惠特曼的赞美继承于他，其所有的描述，我觉得，本质上说无不出色、奇特、非凡，所有描述,所有描述――这部巨著通篇浩瀚博大，任何男女无从写就。我觉得,我不能遗漏掉它。
迈克尔?坎宁安：是的。她为什么要杀我? 哦，对了, 去年圣诞节……
迈克尔?坎宁安：我肯定受这种思想影响，但也不是特别倾向于它。如果宗教成员不那么顽固地坚持拯救自己、不那么热切地迫害与之信仰相异的人的话，我会更喜欢它一些。如果它真正善良，是这个世界一股真正善良的力量, 我会支持他们，甚至加入他们。不，实际上，我觉得宗教基要主义 ――当然不仅仅是基督教基要主义――是当今世界上在起作用的最危险的力量。 但是，我又得重申， 作为小说家，我对这个现象，即那种感觉是怎样侵入于人的，非常感兴趣。因此，我塑造了一个真正意义上的宗教人物，一个在宗教中寻到慰藉和狂喜的人物。
哦, 现在倒是个机会让我简要卖弄一下我觉得不能放入书内的一些材料。尤其是,工业化开始之后，花了整整一代时间，才让工人们意识到，他们得每天在同一时间开始工作了。他们原本是农民，是按季节、需要工作的；而且，似乎没法让他们理解，即便现在有钱，明天还是得去工作，他们喜欢有时间歇息。曾有过一场运动――我不是在杜撰――在那些拥有工厂和其他生意的人中曾有过一场运动,即视贫穷为羞辱。那时，贫穷就如癌症,击倒一些人。没有雨水，你的庄稼长势不好，你因此受贫穷之苦,与受疾病折磨一样。但甭指望不羞于贫穷的人能每天去上班工作。因此，150 年之前，有了贫穷即羞辱的观念，从而导致憎恨沿街乞讨：该死的！好人怎么会落到这般境地。这是相对近些时候的事情。