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By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
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By Nightfall (2010)

by Michael Cunningham

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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
I liked this book much more than I expected to. And definitely more than the first 100 pages would suggest. In the beginning it seemed like this blah blah book about a sophisticated rich gallery owner in New York with a mild sense of existential unease in an otherwise happy enough life...who cares...anyway, this had my guard down and so when it got to the meat of the story I was bowled over and completely shocked. And it carries right through to the end. I couldn't stop reading it, wanted to sneak in a few pages at my desk at work. I loved how the book ended, it is a surprisingly good insight. A book for adults. I wish I could have a beer with Michael Cunningham. ( )
  ahovde01 | Jul 20, 2014 |
I've read a few reviews of By Nightfall, and I must admit its critics are not altogether wrong. Some say it is pretentious, and yes, Michael Cunningham is inclined to deploy words like 'infelicitous' or 'corpuscular' at regular intervals. Others say it lacks dramatic tension, and yes, protagonist Peter Harris' stable, upper-middle class life as a Manhattan art dealer is never really threatened by the arrival of his wayward brother-in-law. It is hard to sympathise with such privileged neuroticism. Yet Cunningham's writing remains compelling.

Jeanette Winterson's admiring review in the New York Times was unsurprising, given that Cunningham's economy with words and ability to construct beautiful, writerly sentences recall Winterson at her best. Cunningham chooses his words with same meticulous care that Peter Harris selects artworks for his gallery. When a friend tells Peter, "You've always been in love with beauty itself. You're funny that way", she might have been speaking of the author. By Nightfall is indeed a celebration of beauty itself. ( )
  whirled | Jun 10, 2014 |
Michael Cunningham is an excellent writer. Unfortunately, just didn't meet this book at the right time. I enjoyed what I read, but realized I had moved on when I went to dust it off. ( )
  IsotropicJoseph | Apr 28, 2014 |
This was an effortless read including art-world elements, erotic undertones, & the ludicrous and seductive appeal of a burgeoning infatuation with an addict - his wife's brother. For anyone who has desired someone so entirely 'off-limits', this story will grab you and pull you in.

The main character's primary relationships were not with his wife or estranged daughter - but were of his love for beauty, art and his never-ending search for the potential presence of genius. Using Starbucks to keep him on track during the work-day and 'blue pills' washed down with vodka to help him sleep at night, this metro-sexual insomniac's internal chatter was amusingly familiar.

I never expected this novel to end with the possibility of redemption, but I appreciated greatly how the author inter-wove the New York scene-scape into the story, transporting the reader effortlessly into a middle-aged man's life that was desperate to find something meaningful in his life.

A sentimentalist's book, this one plucks at the ordinary heart-strings of our modern lives. I recommend for a contemplative type who can appreciate the range of an infatuated, middle-aged, man drowning inside himself one privileged moment after the next. ( )
  rubymadden | Mar 22, 2014 |
Cunningham is such a talented writer, and willing to tackle the hidden rot in our society, the middle-of-the-night, can't-sleep questions. Five stars for prose, but I had a hard time caring deeply about the main character. I kept thinking about SPECIMEN DAYS, and missing those leaps of fiction. ( )
  EllenMeeropol | Apr 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Cunningham writes so well, and with such an economy of language, that he can call up the poet’s exact match. His dialogue is deft and fast. The pace of the writing is skilled — stretched or contracted at just the right time. And if some of the interventions on art are too long — well, too long for whom? For what? Good novels are novels that provoke us to argue with the writer, not just novels that make us feel magically, mysteriously at home. A novel in which everything is perfect is a waxwork. A novel that is alive is never perfect.
 
This is a pensive, elegant novel whose emotional reserves draw on the steady accretion of detail, cerebral rumination, and finely observed scenes plucked from the quotidian. But there's an air of implausibility to the machination and pacing of its thin plot, rescued only by Cunningham's crystalline prose and the novel's thematic precision and reach, which articulates the allure of beauty and its special power to make fools of us all.

 
Cunningham’s novel is a homage to Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. Mann’s protagonist, Gustav Von Aschenbach, is a renowned literary theorist and author. Like Peter Harris, Aschenbach is heterosexual, has been married for a long time and is also in the clutches of paralyzing doubt about his life’s achievement...With By Nightfall, Cunningham deliberately glances back toward Mann’s stylistic austerity and subject matter to evoke a kind of autumnal despair. Here is decay, mortality, the longing for youth and beauty; here is what happens when one denies passion, goes quietly into that good nightfall. Here is what happens when one acquiesces to old age, rather than raging against it. But Cunningham also allows for another very real truth: It is absurd to rail against it. The impressive feat of his novel is that it convincingly holds both positions at once.

 

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Epigraph
Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Dedication
This book is for Gail Hochman and Jonathan Galassi
First words
The Mistake is coming to stay for a while.
Quotations
The next couple of hours at the gallery are taken up with what Peter and Rebecca have come to call the Ten Thousand Things (as in, over the phone, "What are you doing?" "Oh, you know, the Ten Thousand Things"), their shorthand for the ongoing avalanche of e-mails and phone calls and meetings, their way of conveying to each other that they're busy but you don't want to know the particulars, they don't even interest me.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374299080, Hardcover)

Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in thefamily as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

Like his legendary, Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s masterly new novel is a heartbreaking look at the way we live now. Full of shocks and aftershocks, it makes us think and feel deeply about the uses and meaning of beauty and the place of love in our lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Peter and Rebecca Harris--mid-forties denizens of Manhattan's SoHo, he a dealer, she an editor--are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca's much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, "the mistake"), shows up for a visit.… (more)

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