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Claire Danes reads from Michael Cunningham's upcoming novel 'The Snow Queen' -- EXCLUSIVE

Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, has a new novel coming out on May 6 called The Snow Queen, which sounds like it doesn’t have much to do with the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. It follows two brothers living in New York City — one who turns to religion after seeing a vision in Central Park, and one who turns to drugs to inspire his songwriting.

Homeland star Claire Danes, who was in the movie based on The Hours, has joined forces with Cunningham once again by lending her voice to the audiobook version. Check out an exclusive snippet below!

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Michael Cunningham on horror movies, Nicole Kidman, and his new novel

Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Hours, hasn’t published a book since 2005’s Specimen Days. His next novel, tentatively titled Olympia, doesn’t have a release date — but he published an excerpt from the work-in-progress in a new online/download-friendly literary magazine called Electric Literature, founded by Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum. Cunningham’s moving 19-page story charts the relationship of two brothers growing up in 1970s suburban Milwaukee, the flamboyantly gay Matthew (he even figure skates!) and his younger brother, the presumably straight Peter. It’s a self-contained gem that’s  filled with wonderfully evocative descriptive passages like this one: “Their father, handsome but a little blank, unfinished-looking, vaguely Finnish, never fully adapted to his good fortune in marrying their mother, and lived in his marriage the way an impoverished relation might live in the spare room.” I caught up with Cunningham by phone from his home in Provincetown, Mass., at a particularly opportune moment in his creative process.

EW: How are you doing?

Michael Cunningham: At the moment, I just finished a chapter. I’m about two-thirds of the way through a new novel. I’m juggling that with the final drafts of two screenplays, a little thriller for Screen Gems called Beautiful Girl and the Dusty Springfield movie with Nicole Kidman. The Dusty Springfield film, as they say in Hollywood, just went into turnaround at Fox 2000, which is probably best all around. I like all the people at Fox 2000, but it’s probably not the right studio for this film. So now it’s just Nicole and me and Dusty. And we’ll try to find another home for it.

EW: Beautiful Girl is a thriller about a high school English teacher who exacts revenge on everyone who was cruel to one of his students. Let’s just say it does not sound like you at all.

Cunningham: Actually, I’ve always been a huge fan of horror films. I’ve seen all the horror movies. I have no limits when it comes to that. I’ve seen all the Saw movies. Do you know the writer Amy Hempel? She and I will go to any hack-‘em-up movie, the gorier the better. So the genre has always appealed to me. Now, I should say that I have the highest respect  for those who teach English literature, particularly in high school. But this individual is just a psycho. [he chuckles] READ FULL STORY

Book trailers: New Jim Shepard story for 'Electric Literature' makes me forget how much I hate book trailers

I’m not usually a fan of book trailers, which are generally more slipshod than your average piano-playing cat video and considerably less entertaining. But this one — for a new short story by Jim Shepard (Project X) titled “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You” — caught my attention. It’s included in a new ‘zine called Electric Literature, a bimonthly anthology of short stories that’s available in a unique multi-platform distribution system: You can pick up a paperback edition via print on demand ($9.95 from Amazon); or download a copy to your iPhone or Kindle ($4.95); or just read it online as an e-book ($4.95). The debut issue includes an excerpt from The Hours author Michael Cunningham’s forthcoming novel, Olympia, as well as stories by Lydia Millet (My Happy Life), T Cooper (Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes), Diana Wagman (Skin Deep). The trailer for “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You” captures all the intrigue of a good NPR narrative piece and the spare wit of really strong animation.

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