‘The Hours’ slips away

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‘The Hours’ slips away

While “The Hours,” both as a book and a film (now playing around the peninsula), has drawn much praise, it’s surprisingly vacuous. This lyrically written, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham provides few answers for the characters in the book, who are searching for meaning in life, or for those who read it.
Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” “The Hours” nevertheless is an artful amalgamation of three women’s lives across space and time. Ms. Woolf is envisioned when she was developing “Mrs. Dalloway” in the London suburbs in 1923. Laura Brown is a housewife uneasily living the American Dream in Los Angeles, circa 1949, while reading the novel. And, Clarissa Vaughan is a magazine editor dashing about modern-day Manhattan, reliving the novel’s scenes as she organizes a party for her former lover, an author dying of AIDS. With the striking of each hour, all hearts seem to be beating to the same rhythm, all souls searching for meaning.
But the book’s triumphs are purely technical. It certainly does Ms. Woolf no justice and seems little more than an ambitious narrative experiment. It fails to paint an accurate portrait of Ms. Woolf’s mental state during the conception of “Mrs. Dalloway,” and falls short of capturing her spirit. The other women are similarly left to wile away the hours with little more than melancholic sighs.
Mr. Cunningham drew on “Mrs. Dalloway” as a literary springboard rather than a spiritual one. While Ms. Woolf’s character of Clarissa Dalloway managed to arrive at revelations about love and happiness, her inquiries don’t seem to contribute much depth to Mr. Cunningham’s work. Regrettably, “The Hours” doesn’t have the spirit or depth to match its elegiac passages.

by Jing Cai
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