Cunningham, M. Allen
CUNNINGHAM, M. Allen
PERSONAL: Married, wife's name Katie (a high-school English teacher). Hobbies and other interests: Reading, walking, and observing nature.
ADDRESSES: Home—Diablo Valley, CA. Agent—c/o Unbridled Books, 2000 Wadsworth Blvd., #195, Lakewood, CO 80214.
AWARDS, HONORS: "Gentle Knives" and "Highway," nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2002; "Furniture Music" honorable mention, Hermann M. Swafford Fiction Award; Booksense Book of the Year nomination, 2004, for The Green Age of Asher Witherow.
The Green Age of Asher Witherow (novel), Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2004.
Contributor to e-book, Anemone Sidecar Chapter 2, spring, 2004. Contributor to journals, including Glimmer Train, Boulevard, Epoch, Alaska Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, Inkwell, Wind, Potpourri, Absinthe Literary Review, Inkpot, Redivider, Faultline, and Pilgrimage.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel "set in Europe between the late nineteenth century and the outbreak of the First World War. It will deal with the life of one character traveling all over the continent."
SIDELIGHTS: M. Allen Cunningham began his fascination with language from an early age. "My interest in writing was driven from the start by an innate interest in the English language—a tactile interest in the shapes of certain words and the various configurations that a sentence could take," he told Tim Davis in a New Pages online interview. "I found it amazing and mysterious how words could become more pleasing in one order than in another. And synonyms were fascinating to me. I won a Thesaurus in a fifth grade spelling bee, and that book seemed to have huge magical properties."
Cunningham's interest in literature and the art of writing continued to grow until it crystallized during a college study-abroad program: "The decision to devote my life to a pursuit of writing as an art—and possibly a living—came during a semester in England when I was nineteen," he told Davis. "One literary pilgrimage after another through that country gradually made my commitment to writing inevitable. I really come to writing from a life of reading, in the sense that I couldn't write seriously till I'd learned to read seriously."
Cunningham opted not to pursue a college degree in writing; instead, he decided to teach himself. He first wrote what he painfully recalled as an unpublishable first novel, then works to hone his craft. Writing the kind of book that he himself likes to read—one with lyrical language and dealing with the universal themes of life—eventually proved a successful approach. His novel The Green Age of Asher Witherow was published in 2004 to favorable reviews. Set in the Mount Diablo region of northern California during the mid-1800s, the novel tells the coming-of-age story of Asher Witherow, a Welsh miner's son, who suffers guilt over tragic events that happen during his childhood and adolescence.
A number of reviewers applauded Cunningham for his prose, characterizations, and historical setting. Among them was a Publishers Weekly contributor, who remarked that the author does a "superb job of capturing the grim rhythm of life in the mines, balancing that material with fine childhood character studies." In addition, Booklist reviewer Ellen Loughran commented that the novel's "unusual structure and richly descriptive, evocative language display … mastery," while Library Journal commentator David A. Berona noted the novel's "heartfelt characters and stunning descriptions," predicting that Cunningham's depiction of the mines "will haunt readers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2004, Ellen Loughran, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow, pp. 59-60.
ForeWord, November, 2004, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow, p. 703.
Library Journal, August, 2004, David A. Berona, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow, p. 66.
Publishers Weekly, September 13, 2004, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow, p. 56.
Best Reviews, http://thebestreviews.com/ (November 21, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow.
Emerging Writers Forum Online, http://www.breaktech.net/ (October 6, 2004), Dan Wickett, interview with Cunningham.
M. Allen Cunningham Home Page, http://www.mallencunningham.com (June 17, 2005).
M. Allen Cunningham Weblog, http://mallencunningham.blogspot.com/ (June 17, 2005).
New Pages.com, http://www.newpages.com/ (March 16, 2005), Tim Davis, interview with Cunningham.
Rain Taxi Review Online, http://www.raintaxi.com/ (August 19, 2005), Kris Lawson, review of The Green Age of Asher Witherow.