Read Ao Cair da Noite by Michael Cunningham Online


Peter e Rebecca Harris, na casa dos quarenta e a viver em Manhattan, aproximam-se do apogeu das suas carreiras em arte: ele, negociante; ela, editora numa boa revista da especialidade. Com um moderno e espaçoso apartamento, uma filha adulta a estudar na universidade em Boston e amigos inteligentes e animados, levam um invejável estilo de vida urbano contemporâneo e parecemPeter e Rebecca Harris, na casa dos quarenta e a viver em Manhattan, aproximam-se do apogeu das suas carreiras em arte: ele, negociante; ela, editora numa boa revista da especialidade. Com um moderno e espaçoso apartamento, uma filha adulta a estudar na universidade em Boston e amigos inteligentes e animados, levam um invejável estilo de vida urbano contemporâneo e parecem ter todas as razões para serem felizes. Mas é então que o irmão de Rebecca surge em cena. Extremamente parecido com ela, mas muito mais novo, Ethan (conhecido na família como Mizzy, "O Erro") resolve visitá-los. Na sua presença, Peter começa a pôr em causa os artistas, o trabalho destes, a sua carreira - todo o mundo que construíra com tanto cuidado. Tal como o aclamado romance "As Horas", vencedor do Prémio Pulitzer, esta nova obra de Cunningham constitui uma visão dolorosa do modo como vivemos hoje em dia. Plena de peripécias inesperadas, faz-nos pensar (e sentir) com profundidade nas utilizações e no significado da beleza e no papel do amor nas nossas vidas. «No seu romance mais concentrado - um enaltecimento agridoce da criatividade humana - Cunningham, mestre da escrita vencedor de um Prémio Pulitzer, combina erotismo e estética para orquestrar uma admirável crise da alma. Inspirando-se em Henry James e Thomas Mann, assim como nos artistas Agnes Martin e Damien Hirst, produz uma história belíssima, espirituosa, filosófica e urbana sobre os mistérios da beleza e do desejo, da arte e da ilusão, do tempo e do amor.»...

Title : Ao Cair da Noite
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9769896363969
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 307 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Ao Cair da Noite Reviews

  • Fabian
    2019-04-11 10:17

    The best book I’ve read since Mario Vargas Llosa’s “The Feast of the Goat.” Really? 2 genuine masterpieces within one month? Karma is doing me a favor; Fortuna’s Wheel, in my case, travels heavenward...Wow. “By Nightfall.” Golly wow. I had very much forgotten about Cunningham, though I list him as my favorites, & now it is crystal clear why. I was left hella-impressed by “Specimen Days,” a book the literati have literally forgotten. That was an exercise in genre mixing, of wild and fantastical flights of fancy. This one is focused, all-encompassing. I began thinking about “Death in Venice” by Mann, and suddenly Cunningham makes an allusion to it right in the middle of it. I know that I'm in the correct wave, suddenly: that I am in the presence of something grand. I will shock some: this is better than Mann’s opus. This book is what “A Single Man” that kinda pretentious film (I haven't read the novel), wanted to aspire to be. It is probably in the top ten gay lit books. Certainly.Compare the American Cunningham with the British Ian McEwan. You can. Their styles are similar, but whereas McEwan exalts the British riche with its multifaceted perks of living in the highest echelons of modern society, Cunningham makes me for once proud to have a person on the same stratosphere as rich Brit live so-- fully, splendidly, enviously-- in 2010's America. The protagonist is a thinking man, but his heart somehow forms the narrative, builds its parameters firmly, and makes the quaint tale a full-blown pretty perfect masterpiece. I am not lying, it is as particular and tasteful and amazing as "Death in Venice": Beauty itself. I read it in two sittings… that in itself is magnificent (modern lives, it seems, are so complex, after all)...

  • Michael
    2019-03-21 14:24

    Maybe too subtle for me. The story is of a middle-aged art dealer in New York City, Peter, coming to question the value of his work and the solidity of his relationship with his wife, Rebecca. This dawning of doubt is stimulated by the arrival of her much younger brother who is living an aimless life with a track record of unstable relationships with women and men. In his mid-twenties and a Yale drop-out, he has just returned from a long spell mediating at a shrine in Japan. The story they get is that he is unsure what to do with his life and wants to try some career in the arts. They are wary about whether he has returned to a past drug addiction. They still call him Mizzy, the family his family applied over his birth being a mistake.With a set-up like this, one would expect a lot of melodramatics. But Cunningham has an unusual way of playing with those expectations. While we wait for something significant to happen and our moral judgements to be exercised, we spend a lot of time with Peter as he goes about his business. I enjoyed the window on his world and warmed to his sensibilities and day-to-day interactions with the artists and his staff. Like his trying to engage one brilliant sculptor as a client by a trial placement of one of his works in the garden of a rich, eccentric female customer in Connecticut. Other less gifted artists whose works don’t sell call for kind ways to retire them as clients, while for another moderately talented one he does his best to put on a good show of her work at his gallery. The flow of his mind in daily life comes close to Cunningham’s marvelous channeling of Woolfe’s “Mrs. Dalloway” in his “The Hours”. Warm and lively as a read, not a the challenging emulation of elemental mind we tag stream-of-consciousness. As time goes on the big question is what is really wrong with his life. We look for cracks in the foundation of his marriage to his wife, who edits an arts magazine. Any big issue over sexuality? Among three grown children, Jake is most concerned about silence that has fallen between him and his youngest, a college-aged daughter working as a waitress in Boston. Does any sense of failure as a parent contribute to Peter's undermining? The loss of his beloved brother to AIDS in the 80’s gnaws at his consciousness as well. And where have all his friends gone? I can’t tell if this restrained, bloodless tale is some form of indictment of the hollowness of modern life at the core of civilization, which we all tend to take New York City to be. I don’t think so. There is no slicing of our soul here with the pathos of the road not taken. There is no redeeming humor or chaotic scramble for modes of youth like we get from so many masters of the mid-life crises (think Bellow, Updike, Russo). Instead there is a dwelling on art. And maybe with the problems in the temptation to see people as living art. I do believe esthetics is at the core of finding balance with our being on earth and more of a key to pleasure in life than any happiness you can seek as a goal from having things or through achievements. Cunningham stirs these thoughts up in me, but I don’t quite get his message. Of course, literature, like art, bores us when it can be boiled down to a message. There are some references that raise the question of whether the characters here reflect either Mann’s “Magic Mountain” or his “Death in Venice”. I guess I could use some help with that given that the former is that Rushmore I yearned for but failed to climb and the latter I experienced only as a movie (a dying man uplifted through pining over a beautiful boy in another esthetic capital of the world). I am a fan of the idea that art is supposed to shake you and spit you out, transformed and somehow made better from an alternate view of reality. This book was a bit too tame to really rock my world or transport me out of my humdrum.

  • Richard Kramer
    2019-03-23 12:26

    Elegant, sexy, achingly familiar to the point that I had to put it down and say: He knows me. Is that really me?What's it about? It's about how when you're young you long for and fear life at the same moment; when you're not young you regard the young, as happens here, and long for life and fear that your life has been spent. And then, finally, you learn to look away. The book is over before you know it, but it rides with you, next to you, on the subway, in the bus, in the elevator to your apartment. Aschenbach, gazing at the golden Tadzio, had to die on the sand with his makeup melting; Peter, here, has to gaze at his wife's screwed up, exquisite twenty-three year-old brother, Mizzy, and go on. I read this a few months ago, but thinking about it now, I think of THE HOURS, too, about how that was "about" (among other things) those who survive, who remain; Leonard Woolf, Clarissa, Julianne Moore the name of whose character I forget. In BY NIGHTFALL, Peter remains after the loss of the idea of a former self. As we all must. Or as I, anyway, am trying to.

  • John Arfwedson
    2019-03-28 15:19

    Here's the question Michael Cunningham needed to ask of his protagonist, Peter Harris, before starting this novel: if you had to do it all over again, would you still fall in love with yourself?Peter, a study in self-absorption to the point of solipsism, is obsessed with himself and his malaise but in an intensely undramatic, uninteresting way. Part of this is conceptual. If you're going to write about the howling cliche of a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis, he had better be deeply entertaining, wildly fascinating, or at least humorously self-aware - Harris isn't and Cunningham can't seem to conceive of him as anyone other than a real Sad Sack burrowing boringly to the center of his underfurnished soul for 238 pages.Counterexamples make the point best. Read Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" to see how it's done: self-obsession, self-seriousness, self-mockery, and of course, as my old nuns would say, self-abuse, all turned inside out in a rocketing id-on-the-loose carnival of laughter, lethality, and the annihilation of convention. Note to self: it works because it's funny. A more recent example is Russo's "Straight Man". Like Portnoy and Harris, Russo's man, Devereaux, is the walking cliche of the middle-aged man in crisis but he has the wit not to take himself or his situation at all seriously, thereby lending them both a subtle gravity. The result is a comic masterpiece which moves with narrative speed, episodic fleet-footedness, and offhand elegance. Unexpected bonus: beneath the laughter there runs a wry river of actual wisdom about life, relationships, regret, and loss. Of human beings, their discontents and what strategies we should use against the dark, Russo has cut more than Cunningham has printed.What Cunningham fatally misses is that Peter's sad view of his sad, unhappy I-feel-so-sorry-for-myself life is essentially (of course I mean absolutely) comic. That's the only way to view it artistically and have a hope of bringing it off plausibly for the reader. I mean, who really wants to read the aching lament of an overprivileged beauty broker nattering on about his lost youth, dead brother, aging wife, pretty brother-in-law, and how beauty fades? Doesn't that sound like the setup to a joke?We are in Peter's head throughout and it's a mighty boring place. While we're waiting for characters to respond in dialogue Peter's given to endless stone-faced commentaries on behavior, or society, or art, or something. Some of this is anthropologically interesting, especially some of the art stuff, but even there it's interesting in an essaylike way, not a novelistic way. Mostly these observations sound like homework Cunningham's doing for a Phd thesis. He's trying very hard to sound smart and observant but it comes across in laborious, portentous, sententious ways (just the kinds of words he overuses), and worse, the story stops dead in its tracks every time. Connected to this is Cunningham's maddeningly obtuse inside-the-sentences technique of qualifying (almost) (every) statement with switchbacks and counters and doubts and second thoughts - the staccato stopping and starting may strike Cunningham as the mental portrait of a smart guy being smart but it reads like the transcript of a dull guy being repetitive (repeatedly).Part of Cunningham sweating too much to convince of how VERY SERIOUSLY we should take Peter's dilemma is the assiduous way he lards the text with many literary/artistic references as if trying to take on mythopoeic freight by association (Mann's "The Magic Mountain", Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby", and any number of artists, old, modern, and obscure). The effect is weightless grandiosity. In fact, straining for SIGNIFICANCE this way makes the shallowness of Peter's pedestrian display of consciousness all the more obvious.Instead of reading this heavy-handed novel, try the recently published "An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin. I haven't read it yet but it is also about the New York art world and has the great advantage of being written by a man who started out as a comedian.Or read any play by Moliere. He'd have known what to do with Peter Harris: "The Imaginary Crisis and How I Overcame It".Final advice: Laugh. Repeat. It's our only defense against seriously sad novels like this and the onslaught of what awaits.

  • christa
    2019-04-08 08:25

    There must be a time when you have craved a combination of words that simply did not exist. You look for them -- in songs, in books, in blurbs here and there, and movie dialogue. It becomes exhausting. Frustrating, maybe even lonely. Flipping through more words, more quickly, and no one is saying the goddamn two sentence goose bump inducer that needs to be invented for this exact place in space You'd write it if you could, but if you could write it you probably wouldn't need it. If you could write it, you'd know what it looks like. This is at the crux of Michael Cunningham's so-beautiful-you-can-feel-your-own-soul-as-it- exfoliates novel "By Nightfall." Peter is in those awkward middle-aged man years, at the fork that bends left toward status quo and right to off the rails, world scorching destruction in a new and exciting way. He owns an art gallery in SoHo. He's got a nice wife named Rebecca, equally arty, and a standing Sunday date. And they still think it's interesting to touch each others private parts, as evidenced in an early scene in the book that has them up well past their bedtime. Rebecca's much younger brother Mizzy (as in "The Mistake") comes to stay with them in their funky, no privacy loft. He's fresh off a stint staring at rocks halfway around the world, and some druggie escapades before that. He's thinking of a career in the arts, which makes this particular mentorship with these particular adults make sense. The 24-year-old has the face of a young Rebecca, and a history of oozing potential, all prodigy-like. Peter's reunion with his brother-in-law is a sudsy mess of awkward: The elder thinks his wife is in the shower, and slips in for some grab ass, only to realize he's trespassed into dude territory. And, uh oh, damn that boy is fine. See also: Rodin. Peter has a seven layer dish of disarray: Career-wise, he's frustrated by the artists that show work in his gallery. He's looking for some authenticity and beauty, and everything is a cog off for him, including a young wonderkin who designs urns, or rather a caricature of urns, that are breathtaking from a distance and up close, marred with slang for genitalia, and offensive lyrics in a wonderfully fresh and up-and-comery way. His relationship with his daughter is on the fritz. The college student-turned-hotel bartender is still gathering steam over a series of perceived adolescent slightings, which Peter remembers differently than the angry voice on the other end of the infrequent phone calls. He's still struggling with the loss of his HIV positive older brother, who died years ago, and some unresolved feelings about their relationship. His own aging process is eating away at him. It's in the graying of his hair, and the softening of his wife. And there is the ongoing struggle between potential and actuality. Anticipation versus fruition. We are right there inside Peter's head as he takes all of this discontent and channels it into a heady lust fest starring Mizzy, a young charmer and seducer. The kind of guy who walks around naked, flashes winning smiles, always presents the right response, and seems comfortable in any environment. All of a sudden Peter, aged 40 something, wonders if he is "gay for one man." When Peter discovers that Mizzy is still using, they become tangled in the secret they are keeping from Rebecca, the sort of thing that only fuels the tug of Peter's bone dog. This novel is just beautiful. There are passages where the hair on my arms stood. Peter's head is both a comfortable and uncomfortable place to spend 200 plus pages of introspection. The scenes and the navel gazing both have that artistic sensibility of a person who knows how the subtle addition of an urn can change the flow of a space. Peter unfolds, first gradually, then manically, and the transition is totally organic. All the while, this character has a foot in reality, can actually see himself and knows the potential for world-changing destruction and yet can't stop himself. An entire row of Oreos at the ready, followed by no Oreos left, black chalky dust caked into lips. And, um, I'd be lying through omission if I didn't mention that there are some super hot scenes. Not just the aforementioned husband-wife rodeo, but also places where the suggestion of what might be is hot-hot-hot.

  • Ally Armistead
    2019-03-24 12:24

    Just finished reading Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall," and I'm, well, underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong: Cunningham is a freaking amazing writer--a sentence-crafter that will make you sit up straight and say "holy crap; how does he think of these things?" But overall, as far as the story of Peter Harris is concerned, I am left with the taste of "meh" in my mouth. And damnit, I'm trying to figure out why. Part of it may have to do with the difficulty (MY difficulty) of finding empathy for the existential crisis of a well-to-do New York art dealer who has everything in life, but has his head up his ass and a hard-on for his brother-in-law. It's hard to find a desire to care when the world, everyday, seems to be falling apart at the seams. But still, that aside, the novel is less of a story, and more of a meditation on middle-age: the fear of growing old, the fear of never finding, being, or having beauty, and ultimately the fear of death. These are beautiful themes, but when you're looking at them through the lens of the upper working class of New York City, it's a little, well, stagnant. Honestly, I thought the film "Moonstruck" did a far better job of getting at the heart of these same themes, while being a much better story. But that's apples and oranges, and film is film, and literature and literature, but "By Nightfall" is by no means in the same camp as "The Hours." Still, a worthwhile read for some truly beautiful passages by a real master. Three out of five stars for me.

  • Tricia
    2019-03-25 15:26

    Most of this book takes place in Peter Harris's head, and not much "action" happens. So, I could see how a lot of people would get turned off by this book, and I'll admit that for most of it, I wasn't quite sure where it was heading or what the point of it was. On the surface, it might seem difficult to sympathize with this man who's problems include, but aren't limited to, that he finds his wife not as beautiful as she used to be, his college-age daughter isn't as brilliant or interesting as he wants her to be, and that at times, he (a successful art dealer) feels like a servant to his rich, art-buying clientele. But I found his perpetual dissatisfaction and inability to see and appreciate his life as it is as part of the human condition. His constant search for perfection and beauty in his professional career as an art dealer leaked into his personal life as well, explaining a lot of shocking choices he makes. I didn't love this book until the very last two pages, and perhaps loved it even more because of the final sentence. I won't spoil it, but those last moments in the book illustrated the idea that people will never fail to surprise you, even someone you've lived with for 25 years+ and that's a great thing.

  • Catherine B.
    2019-03-23 13:13

    I found this to be a very s-l-o-w read. The narrator of the book is unlikeable to me and too whiny for my taste. I could not bring myself to feel for the characters of the book. The ending was so anti-climatic, just go about your business.This is not Cunninghma's best work.

  • Bailey
    2019-03-27 16:14

    I loved this book, though I don't know that anyone else will. Very little happens, the narrator could be accused of being whiny, and the narration itself is at times over wrought. The tone is highly literary, and Cunningham frequently alludes to Joyce's Ulysses, Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Mann's Death in Venice, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and the real-life doomed affair of Rimbaud and Veralaine. It reminded me of an Ian McEwan (swoon) novel in its slow inexorable pace, its plot deliciously filled out by digressions and musings about beauty and art and marriage and aging and death. The book is a meditation on and search for the nature of beauty. It's also a coming of age novel, but for middle-agers-- people who haven't been innocent for quite awhile, but who still harbor some notion of the existence of the ideal. At one point the narrator wonders: "Isn't this part of what you keep looking for in art-- rescue from solitude and subjectivity, the sense of company in history and the greater world, the human mystery simultaneously illuminated and deepened?" Despite its flaws, this book did all those things for me.

  • Greg Zimmerman
    2019-04-17 12:28

    Midway through Michael Cunnigham's slim new novel, By Nightfall, a character describes a rich woman's expensively decorated living room as " magnificent it transcends its own pretensions." That's also a good description for what Cunningham must've hoped his novel would be. But since it's not exactly magnificent, we're pretty much left with just pretentious. And the novel, though well-crafted, sure is that.But the novel failed for another reason, too: Its protagonist is an utter dolt. Far be it from me to need likable characters to enjoy a novel, but Peter Harris is not just unlikeable — he's totally unbelievable. Here's the story: Peter's a mid-40s New York City art dealer in the midst of a crisis. He's not sure he's happy with his life. (Real original, right?) When his wife Rebecca's much-younger, much-troubled brother Mizzy comes for a visit, idealistic Peter develops all these notions of Mizzy as quintessential Youth, Beauty, and the Happiness of his marriage when it was still new. And then, Peter thinks he might be in love with Mizzy. But is he actually in love with Mizzy or is he in love with what he's convinced himself that Mizzy represents?But heterosexual, married Peter's possible homosexual crush on his brother-in-law (which to Cunningham's credit is certainly an original take on the mid-life crisis dilemma!) is not even the ridiculous part. The ridiculous part is how silly Peter, who Cunningham painstakingly renders as this uber-self-aware, contemplative, hip New Yorker, seems at various points in the novel. He's like a rocket scientist who can't balance his checkbook. As one example of this: Early in the novel, he comes home and sees Mizzy naked in the shower and actually mistakes him for his wife, wondering why she looks so much younger all of a sudden. Yes, this is a foreshadowing of what's to come, but its too gimmicky to be believable. And then later, Peter so blatantly misses some rather important signs that by that point are so obvious to the reader, it's impossible to take him seriously anymore.So, then, Peter's naïvete contradicts with his (and the novel's) pretentiousness. As evidence of that pretentiousness, read this sentence (from Peter's thoughts): "She sighs voluptuously. She could so easily be a Klimt portrait, with her wide-set eyes and bony little apostrophe of a nose." A beautiful sentence, no doubt. But how does someone sigh voluptuously? And who is Klimt? Peter certainly knows, and maybe that's how an art dealer would think, but Cunningham is practically holding it over his readers' heads that they don't. And that, and dozens of similar examples throughout the novel, are what drags the novel into pretentiousness.I do think By Nightfall is an original, smart piece of contemporary lit. But to me, the annoying peripherals cancel out the ingenuity of the story and Cunningham's often stylish prose. I'd like to give Cunningham's work another shot, though, because while I didn't much like this one, I know a lot of people really like Cunningham's other work, especially The Hours. Is Specimen Days good? Any other suggestions on where to look for another shot at Cunningham?

  • TL
    2019-04-04 14:14

    2.5 starsQuote from the beginning of the book:Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror. - Rainer Maria Rilke---Some beautiful writing:"It's hard to say what he feels. He wishes it were as simple as sorrow for Bette. It's hollower than sorrow. It's a deep loneliness muddled up with some underlayer of jittery fear, who knows what to call it, but he wants to see his wife, he wants to curl up with her, maybe watch something stupid on TV, let the world go dark for the night, let it fall. "The silence takes on a certain decisiveness, like the interlude during which it becomes apparent that a date is not going well; that nothing promising is going to happen after all. Soon, if this awkwardness doesn't resolve itself, it will be established that Peter and Mizzy--this Mizzy, anyway, this troubled, world - scavenging boy who has supposedly been clean for over a year -- don't get along"Like a medieval bas-relief, he possesses a certain aspect of what Peter can only think of as youth personified, the sense of a young hero who in life was probably not so beautiful and quite possibly not all that heroic and was certainly mauled into bloody bits in the battle in which he died but afterword--after life--some anonymous artisan has granted him impeccable features and put him to perfect sleep, under the painted eyes of saints and martyrs, as generation after generation of the temporarily living light candles for their dead. Because, all right, he wants it to be true, and it might, it might conceivably be true, that Mizzy has been mooning over him since Peter read Babar to him when he was four. Peter doesn't think of himself, never has, as someone to be mooned over. Yes, he's seductive and he's decent-looking but he's the guy, looking up at the balcony from the garden below. He's the servant of beauty, he's not beauty itself"----The story itself? Overall meh... despite some good moments, I never felt much any of the people in it. It's hard to feel sympathy for Peter... he's self-absorbed but that wouldn't have bothered me so much if I could have connected to him or the story itself. There were a couple times I did love Mizzy but it fizzled out quickly. I could tell what his angle was the moment a certain something happened in the story. Almost felt sorry for Peter then... almost.After awhile even the writing failed to spark anything for me, no fault with it but I just got very disconnected from it.Just felt distant from... everything really.I wouldn't recommend this as your first by this author, this is a type of book you'll either love or find boring... maybe you'll like it better, who knows? Still will read more by this author but this one for me, is not one of his best.Happy reading!

  • Kathryn
    2019-04-01 11:30

    I actually wrote this review out on paper first. I wanted to make sure I got this review right. Before I read By Nightfall, I had never read a Cuningham novel. Little did I realize, I was in for a surprise. When I read the premise for By Nightfall, I have to admit, I wasn't jumping up and down with excitement. It sounded intriguing enough, and I knew Michael Cunningham was, or is, pretty well-known, so, I decided to give it a shot. I am glad I did. We meet a couple in their forties, Peter and Rebecca Harris, who both live in the art world. Peter is an art dealer, and Rebecca is an editor of an arts and culture magazine. Rebecca's much younger brother Ethan, a 23 year old recovering drug addict, comes to stay with Peter and Rebecca temporarily. Known as "Mizzy", shortened for 'the mistake,' Mizzy/Ethan's stay will be more than just a will turn all three lives upside down in, what was for me, a very unexpected way. His arrival is uncomfortable, and both Peter and Rebecca are apprehensive about the idea. This is a beautifully written story. I found myself really enjoying "the art world." As the story progresses, we find Peter thinks a lot about life, relationships, death, of course art, but also Mizzy.....Mizzy doesn't really have any direction in life. In fact, it sounds as if he is just sailing by. A memorable quote of Mizzy's is him saying he doesn't want to do nothing, but he isn't good at anything, like other people. He does show an interest in art. Mizzy is also attractive.....whether he is in the kitchen, outside, or elsewhere. He is described to be attractive like Rebecca, but a younger version. And sharing her slim, attractive body....As I read this book, I felt...uneasy, for some reason. I didn't really know what was going to happen and when. But I could feel it coming. Unsettling is also a word I use to describe this story as being. And, I'm not saying these are bad things to feel when reading a novel. It's nice when an author can create such feelings in a reader.I liked Peter, but also felt bad for him for different reasons. A man who seems bored with life, family, and his career. I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say, it surprised me. I think so because, well....I guess I didn't really think things would go so far. Sometimes nothing ever comes of desire....Cunningham wrote a beautiful story. I felt as if I was there watching everything unfold. I felt like I was in Peter's head and in his world. Don't expect an action-packed story, because that isn't the point. It's an understated quality, in which the story builds up subtly, and it works well for this novel.

  • Amy
    2019-04-19 12:28

    Michael Cunningham can write the sh*t out of some books. If I could, I would have put this at 4.5 stars, but I can't so I'm rounding up. I blazed through this very quickly. Which is actually a shame with Cuninngham's work because he is such a smart writer and I know I'm missing a lot of what he's up to from a literary standpoint. But his knack for characters and dialogue catches me every time and I just have to know what happens to these people. I've skimmed a couple of other reviewers who didn't like the main character. If Cunningham wanted the reader to like him, we would, so this has to be deliberate. I really appreciate an author who is willing to let his characters be ambiguous and human. I will say I felt that Rebecca got a bit lost. She seemed to be so fully formed, yet faded from the narrative. Of course, Peter was falling in love with the younger version of her in her brother while remembering his own lost gay brother. Though the novel is fairly short, and takes place over a few days, there's a lot going on here. Cunningham has given us fully formed characters, completely in their lives. There is nothing easy about these people and that is Cunningham's genius.

  • Bill Krieger
    2019-03-31 12:09

    This is a story about malaise. And whining. It's the malaise that accompanies privilege and success and middle age too, I guess. It's a very whiny story about a whiny guy. The main character is a successful art dealer in Manhattan. He's middle age and yet still brimming with teen angst. Most of the characters in the book are completely self-absorbed. Blech.I thought Cunningham's writing style was OK. The book was a light and fast read, and the ending was not bad. But it's a tough slog when you have virtually no likeable characters and the focus of the story is a constant blizzard of complaining. Silly example: the art dealer has an stomach ache, so he worries that maybe he has stomach cancer. Jeez.While I was reading "By Nightfall", I thought of Woody Allen. He covers all this stuff: city angst, middle age whining, the malaise of success, etc. But Woody does it with humor and sarcasm. It felt like Cunningham meant for us to take all this stuff very seriously and to extract some life lesson from all this: rich, successful and attractive people complaining about everything and anything. Cmon!yow, bill

  • Lars Guthrie
    2019-03-25 14:24

    Fiction is about finding truth in imagination. That gives writers license to occupy someone else’s time or milieu, to be whom they are not—another class, another gender, another race. The test is readers’ belief. Characters have to be real. They must do what they do because of what they are, rather than doing what the writer wants to prove he can make them do.Perhaps Michael Cunningham felt that a challenging test of his ability to make his readers believe was to write about a straight man suddenly overwhelmed by his inner homosexual. I don’t know. But ‘By Nightfall’ reads like an author out to prove that he can write about a straight man suddenly overwhelmed by his inner homosexual. So Peter Harris, who might have been an interesting character, a Soho gallery owner who possibly has the right combination of contradictory personality quirks, business acumen, and aesthetic awareness to advance into the top tier of New York’s art market, becomes instead a symbol. A symbol of wanting to be ‘the one who wants to be free,’ ‘the one who’d do unspeakable things.’Cunningham is a wonderful author with an exquisite eye for detail, and some of the passages in ‘By Nightfall’ are lyrically stunning. The eternally insomniac Peter gets out of bed and wanders to the tip of Manhattan, calling his sullen daughter Bea by cell phone on the way, and the reader is treated to an inside tour of the city, both provincially insular and extravagantly extroverted.As he approaches Battery Park, Peter remembers it is where 'Moby Dick' begins with ‘a riff about this "mole" assaulted by waves.’ And then Peter senses ‘the black roil of the harbor, netted with light, he can smell it suddenly…this particular seawater…this finger of land, this "mole"…the city’s only point of contact with something bigger and more potent than itself.’Would that Cunningham had allowed Peter more of that late night roaming, and more contact with the novel’s truly interesting characters, like Bea, and Peter’s wife, Rebecca, and his friend Bette, dying of cancer. In another astonishing passage filled with precise and visual language, Cunningham accompanies Bette and Peter as they visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and view Damien Hirst’s shark in its formaldehyde-filled display case, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.’ But the poetry of Manhattan spaces and the intricacies of complicated people take a back seat with the entrance of Rebecca’s brother, a specimen of incredible physical beauty. He’s also emotionally and intellectually vapid, a coke fiend and second-rate scam artist.With his appearance, Cunningham seems to become just as distracted by the superficial as Peter is. The artists, and art, in Peter’s gallery are reduced to caricature. The novel hooks on a metaphor for the emptiness of contemporary art that is spectacularly clumsy. See, underneath the attractive wrappings there’s really nothing at all. The art and the pretty boy seem silly and meaningless. Above all, they seem to be there only to make a point, not to tell a story about people you believe are really people.

  • Kristin
    2019-04-19 15:06

    I was so excited for the new Michael Cunningham. I thought The Hours, A Home at the End of the World, and Specimen Days were all wonderful. By Nightfall has the same beautiful prose, but it lacks many elements that make the others great.For one, the characters just aren't that likable. In every other one of his novels, I could find something to relate to or sympathize with in every man, woman, gay, straight, young, old, contemporary, historic person. In By Nightfall, I found Peter to be pathetic, his wife flat, and his brother-in-law a whiny child.I also like Cunningham for the deep ideas he can effortlessly mix into his stories. In this case, it was more like he was trying to mix a story into his deep idea, and it was unsuccessful. There was too much thinking about life and beauty and not enough life and beauty actually happening. On top of that, the constant musing nature let to redundant vocabulary--evanescent, crepuscular, ineffably. I like a perfect word as much as (if not more than) the next person, but when I start noticing the same words being repeated, that tells me you're trying to stretch a 30-page idea into a 230-page novel. Kind of jarring.Perhaps I shouldn't fault Cunningham for trying to move on and do something new (based on this novel, perhaps HE is having an existential crisis over the nature of his own art), but at the same time, I really miss the triangular, interweaving stories that spoke more to me than this forceful presentation of a theme.

  • Puck
    2019-03-24 16:13

    “Alstublieft God, stuur mij iets om lief te hebben.” Dat iets blijkt het Misverstand “Mizzy” of Ethan, de jongere broer van Peter’s vrouw Rebecca, en deze knappe jongeman gooit Peter’s leven flink overhoop. Alles wat zeker was in zijn leven - Peter’s goede baan in de kunst, zijn liefde voor zijn vrouw, de herinnering aan zijn overleden broer - komt op losse schroeven te staan. Langzaam laten alle elementen uit Peter’s leven zich van een andere kant zien…Peter zelf daarbij niet uitgezonderd.In deze roman van Michael Cunningham (beroemd geworden door zijn boek De Uren) gaat het niet alleen over een welgestelde man die in een mid-life crisis belandt, maar ook over andere thema’s: de betekenis van kunst, de vergankelijkheid van het leven, en onze herinneringen van dat leven. Vanwege dat laatste onderwerp deed dit boek mij denken aan het boek van Julian Barnes, Alsof het Voorbij is, maar daarmee houdt de vergelijking op. Cunningham’s boek is veel vluchtiger geschreven, met weinig dialogen en veel lange paragrafen vol komma’s. Dit reflecteert goed Peter’s gedachtegang, maar hield mij niet bij het verhaal. Daarbij is Peter hoog opgeleid (in de kunst), dus de mijmeringen over Klimt of Damien Hurst zullen niet iedereen boeien.Toch trokken de actuele gebeurtenissen tussen de hoofdpersonages - Peter, Rebecca en Ethan - mij wel aan, en zo werd het verhaal in de tweede helft toch boeiend. Het einde met Peter’s zelf-reflectie ontroerde mij zelfs een beetje, al liep de verhaallijn met Ethan een beetje op niets uit (na die dramatische realisatie op het strand).Dus hoewel het plot voor dit boek vrij simpel is en niet iedereen Peter’s kunstideeën zal waarderen, vond ik dit toch een mooi boek om te lezen. Aanrader voor fans van Julian Barnes en Graham Swift’s boek “Moeder’s Zondag”.

  • Dinah
    2019-03-20 11:21

    Michael Cunningham: count on this guy to rip your heart out every damn time. This might be my favorite yet. Kept me up all night on Christmas after the biggest, sleepiest-to-digest meal in recent memory because I just couldn't put it down.What is there to say? His prose is absolutely delicious, maybe even more so in a novel where Cunningham isn't vying for rhetorical space with one of the many poets in his homage-based pieces. Of course it's always Cunningham, in every book, but this one leaves his talent brilliantly undiluted for the reader, frees us from having to keep the references straight from the new language (which is in no way an unpleasant reading experience, but it is less singularly rapt on one immersive narrative and world).The brilliance of By Nightfall is almost akin to that of very good science fiction. We sit in the mind of an entirely relatable and possibly reprehensible character who seems subconsciously convinced that, in every moment, he is on the brink of ripping open everything that is pedestrian and normal and comfortable in this world. He is perpetually a half-revelation away from magic.Cunningham's depiction of New York is as versatile and heart-rending as ever, the city's neighborhoods and instantly-recognizable denizens reflecting the characters' histories and insecurities back to them in that particular Manhattan flash of slightly-warped window glimpses, superimposed with gaudiness and art and the impossible elation of proof that you're actually here, a tiny part of such an unlikely beast. The magic that hovers just out of reach is intimately tied to this place, to its dream of itself as the maker of heroes and the banal machinery in which all New Yorkers are all ultimately cogs. The reader is dragged right into this relentless ebb and flow, from boundless possibilities of who we can become here, to the stark clarity of the tiny lives we lead, and back to the waking dream of promised transcendence in a glance or email or perfectly chosen pair of boots.I am reminded of a point Julianne Moore made in an interview last week about film -- she attached herself to The Kids Are All Right because there are so few attempts made in mainstream culture to examine a marriage in its middle age. This book does so brilliantly, and actually it'd be great to see Moore cast in the inevitable screen adaptation. Although we'll lose the intimate, urgent turbulence of being inside the head of a husband/father/bereaved brother at a crossroads with all those identities, the story itself will flourish as a careful study of families as they age, writing and rewriting the myths of the clan and each of its members. We'll watch a forty-something man navigate his daily routine haltingly as he still struggles to define himself in each moment and, in the battle to keep his self-loathing at bay and euphoric flights of fancy in check, inadvertently loses touch with the real people who hold up his world. Who isn't guilty of exactly this sin? We scrutinize the lives we've built and construct their narratives and key characters obsessively, until the being-ness of the people at the heart of our stories assert themselves too strongly to be rhapsodized into compliance with the way we've constructed them, and more importantly, constructed ourselves through our relationships with them. I recognize that terror so sharply, the first crack of a loved one snapping me back into reality, that moment makes the entire picture of one's world falling apart instantly visible. And the self-loathing and re-conceptualizing that comes with that, too.There's so much more to praise... Cunningham's deft and vital probing of sexuality in his characters and the world itself; the exquisitely rendered secondary characters whose lives are unquestionably real independent of the narrative but still function dutifully as sharp snapshots in service of the central story; the delightful German office assistant who cuts through the mythic quality of the prose exactly when the reader needs a concrete narrator and world for a while.I've managed to say nearly nothing about the story, not because it's immaterial exactly, but because it is inevitable. Cunningham makes the characters and the environments that define them (or rather, that they use to define themselves), and the rest unfolds almost effortlessly -- what else could these minds and circumstances produce? The actions and events of the novel function almost identically to its forays into memory; they live in service to the thought and the prose, providing fodder and direction but not remotely taking the helm. This book is a gem, and this author has proved yet again how many tricks are up a true novelist's sleeve.

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-04-08 14:14

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)This is my first novel by the much-loved Michael Cunningham, although I'm already familiar with the plot of his Pulitzer-winning The Hours (which will be getting reviewed itself later this year, as part of the "CCLaP 100" essay series), and I also once had a chance when younger to read the first 50 pages of a friend's copy of A Home at the End of the World; and so that's why my first reaction when starting his latest was to turn this review into a snotty one-line joke, to express my dissatisfaction with him repeating so many of the same tropes found in his other work. ("Dear Michael Cunningham: Seriously, enough with the 'Gay Freudian Incest Fantasy As Sexual Awakening,' 'Obsessed With The Angelically Golden Downy Body Hair Of My Male Relatives' crap. You're really starting to creep me out. Sincerely, Jason Pettus.") But still, I found myself fascinated with the milieu Cunningham chose to tell this story, the main reason I kept reading; that is, the world of upper-class bohemian-bourgeoise Manhattanites in an age when their professional worlds are crumbling around them, in this case a gallery-owning husband and magazine-editor wife who both are unsure if their industries are even going to exist five years from now, and the evermore desperate acts and moral compromises they lower themselves to in order to hold onto their million-dollar SoHo loft and all the other accoutrements they've gotten so glibly used to, a riveting subplot of its own even as the main storyline is a character-based one that could technically take place anywhere.And of course all the stories about Cunningham's breathtakingly beautiful prose are true, which also helped carry me along, a kind of attention to detail and a wild sense of extrapolation usually only seen in certain breeds of ridiculously overanalytical art-school girlfriends (oh, you know who I mean -- the ones who are great in bed but who so completely overthink every single detail of your relationship, you're exhausted after just six weeks of dating them); and while I was disappointed at first with that main character-based storyline I mentioned (basically, yet another look at a chiseled twentysomething frequently shirtless bisexual trainwreck who upends the formerly staid life of some middle-classers), let me confess that the surprise-filled plot gets better and better as it continues, precisely for being more and more unexpected, with a gangbusters ending that's much more satisfying than its lackluster beginning. (Also, I was intrigued with the way it examines the same fundamental question at the heart of the infamous 1970s play Equus as well, of whether spiritually deflated middle-agers should in fact be jealous of the mentally ill for at least being passionate about something, and should therefore be allowed to live with that illness instead of trying to be "cured.") So when all is said and done, I guess I was actually pretty pleased with this novel after all, even while coming across lots of details that made me roll my eyes; and for sure it comes highly recommended to those who enjoy dark-tinged character-based stories about aging, sexuality and mental health. If nothing else, it definitely has me excited now about reading The Hours later this year.Out of 10: 9.2

  • Nicola
    2019-04-05 11:21

    Oh, yay: another novel about a rich white dude who works in Manhattan’s art world! I’ve never read any other literary fiction like this!(Heavy sarcasm.)The rich white dude in question is Peter, a (happily?) married man who is thrown off-kilter by a visit from his wife’s beautiful, (recovering?) drug addict brother, Mizzy. Dot dot dot. (No spoilers, but this is Cunningham – of course there’s tortured gay love!)There are elements of a good story here, and Cunningham’s beautiful prose is in full effect, but as a novel, By Nightfall never really comes together. The premise is undeniably soapy – again, no spoilers, but there’s some random incest included – yet Cunningham seems unwilling to include some of the plot twists and OMG moments that might actually make the novel, y’know, interesting.Again, in eschewing soap opera, Cunningham goes heavy on psychoanalysis, but light on actual emotion. As a result, Nightfall’s characters seem to be acting according to Author-God’s plan, rather than as fully-realized people behaving realistically.The inclusion of an art sale subplot – quite stunning in its banality – tips the novel over into feeling longer than necessary. The narrator’s preoccupation with art and antiques should perhaps invite comparisons with Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, but in fact, I was reminded of a quite different piece of, uh, “literature”. In the bubblegum-YA novel, Pretty Little Liars, Sara Shepard obsessively namedrops tween-friendly designer brands like Juicy Couture as a weird form of consumerist, aspirational wallpaper. The lengthy digressions into cataloguing the contents of beautiful houses in Nightfall felt similar to me.As a Cunningham fan, I genuinely wanted to like Nightfall, but it ultimately seemed pretentious, derivative and just a little bit lazy. Read A Home At the End Of the World instead.

  • Ron Charles
    2019-04-04 09:17

    What are we to make of Michael Cunningham's horny new novel about the power of beauty to rouse us from ennui? The question gets no help from the publisher, which illustrates its dark title with a funereal tulip instead of, say, the abs on Michelangelo's "David." The dust jacket describes "By Nightfall" as "heartbreaking . . . full of shocks and aftershocks." But actually, it's rather witty and a little outrageous -- none of that difficult reanimation of Virginia Wolfe in "The Hours," which won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, or the Whitmanian sprawl of his last novel, "Specimen Days." No, from the complex triptychs of his previous two books, Cunningham has moved to a svelte story with just a touch of actual plot about an art dealer feeling cramped by his own smallness. With its eroticized reflections on modern aesthetics and liberal guilt, it's like watching a bi-curious college professor annotate an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.At 44, Peter Harris is contentedly married (20 years) and living in a SoHo loft that makes him feel proud if cliche. As the owner of an exclusive gallery, he glides through the wealthiest houses and apartments, ingratiating and confident in equal measure as he manages the anxieties and vanities of his artists and clients. He's "never graduated to the majors," but a few careful moves could elevate him into that rarefied realm.One of the pleasures of this novel is Cunningham's description of these intoxicating homes, from the "insistent glittery buzz" of a Manhattan party to a rambling mansion on the coast, "all fieldstone and gables, girded on three of its four sides by verandas; contrived, somehow, with a sense of absolute authenticity." Among the many classic literary voices he channels is F. Scott Fitzgerald, simultaneously swooning over and deriding these gorgeous temples of consumerism.And he's even better with the trophies that decorate such homes: the objects that pass through galleries like Peter's, trying to catch the eye of the right editor, the right curator or a handful of influential critics who can transform, say, a giant ball of tar and hair into a multimillion-dollar masterpiece. Cunningham moves fluently through this occult world of fortune and taste, demonstrating his appreciation for modern art and his disdain for the lacquer of hucksterism. He can riff brilliantly on the bizarre work of Damien Hirst (remember that shark in formaldehyde) just as confidently as he can make up his own artists and slot their pieces into the cult of beauty, shock and excess money.We meet Peter when he's quietly mulling over the dissatisfactions of his life, among them the nagging worry that he's failed his college-aged daughter and the sense that he's not quite ambitious enough or vulgar enough to rise higher. After a "lifelong, congenital disappointment," a deeper thirst is troubling him, too, a desperate desire for a kind of beauty that seems out of reach: "He can't stop himself from mourning some lost world, he couldn't say which world exactly but someplace that isn't this."Yes, this is another midlife crisis novel (a crowded market if there ever was one), but it's redeemed by the hero's willingness to mock his preciousness, to recognize the audacity of even a sliver of discontent amid such bounty. During a night of queasy insomnia Peter thinks, "How could he, could any member of the .00001 percent of the prospering population, dare to be troubled . . . ? He is impossibly fortunate; frighteningly fortunate. Your troubles, little man? Think of them as an appetizer that didn't turn out quite right. You should sing and frolic, you should make obeisance to any god you can think of."While Jonathan Franzen -- God bless him -- is still pumping away at the big-plotted novel, several other super-sophisticated writers have published books this year about middle-aged men studying their navels: I'm thinking of James Hynes's "Next," Jonathan Lethem's "Chronic City" and Joshua Ferris's "The Unnamed" -- a mixed bag, to be sure, but all plot-starved books that put tremendous pressure on the author's style. In that regard, Cunningham reigns supreme. There are flashier, more pyrotechnic stylists, but for pure, elegant, efficient beauty, Cunningham is astounding. He's developed this captivating narrative voice that mingles his own sharp commentary with Peter's mock-heroic despair. Half Henry James, half James Joyce, but all Cunningham, it's an irresistible performance, cerebral and campy, marked by stabbing moments of self-doubt immediately undercut by theatrical asides and humorous quips.Peter, you see, is a man burdened with hyper-self-analysis that delivers every personal insight gilded with irony. He reflexively thinks of himself and those around him in terms of literary characters and mythologized historical figures. They crowd his imagination (and these pages), from Isabel Archer to Dorothea Brooke, Helen and the Trojans, Ludwig of Bavaria, Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby, Dante and Beatrice.But what gives the novel its considerable frisson is the intrusion of Peter's impossibly seductive, much younger brother-in-law. Nicknamed Mizzy ("The Mistake"), Ethan is a bisexual drug addict who's sucked up his family's money and affection for years. He wants to crash with his sister and Peter while he figures out what he'd like to do next -- maybe "Something in the Arts." Till then, he'll just tiptoe around the apartment in full-frontal Grecian splendor and masturbate in his room. Peter reacts with politely repressed disdain, but the young man's beauty quickly overwhelms him and soon he's fantasizing about touching Mizzy's "pallid, fine-boned prettiness," his "slumbering perfection. . . . It had seemed to him that angels might look like this."How gay is it?That's Peter's question, but ours, too, as the novel becomes increasingly flamboyant, giving itself over to a lush internal melodrama, "the painful gorgeousness of caring that much." Of course, Peter is self-aware enough to acknowledge the homosexual component of his attraction, but he also sees his brother-in-law, this "beautiful princeling," as a long-lost work of art, the perfect object that demolishes everything and remakes his world.This is not an easy argument to make with a straight -- or gay -- face. There's a touch of "I buy Playgirl for the articles" here, and Cunningham pushes hard on celebrating a kind of beauty that transcends mere sexual desire. Even without a death in Venice, it gets a bit overwrought, though only in ways that Cunningham anticipates and acknowledges -- all "very nineteenth century," as a discreet colleague observes. While the drama between Peter and his feckless brother-in-law is arresting, it can't really rise to tragedy or romance or even scandal because Peter is too self-conscious of the situation's competing meanings: psychological, aesthetic and farcical. "He's a poor, funny little man, isn't he?" he says of himself toward the end, but most of us poor, funny little people don't have Peter's capacity to simultaneously critique and star in our own psychosexual crises.If the novel's final revelation seems a bit bland, it's more than compensated for by the insight and humor that come before. Admittedly, "By Nightfall" doesn't have the emotional breadth of "The Hours," but it's a cerebral, quirky reflection on the allure of phantom ideals and even, ultimately, on what a traditional marriage needs to survive.

  • Schmacko
    2019-04-07 12:31

    Michael Cunningham can sure turn a phrase. In his hands, the most self-involved of ideas –that of an fairly privileged Manhattan gallery owner coming to grips with aging and mortality – can read like pure poetry. Take a moment early in the book, a moment when protagonist Peter Harris goes with a business associate Bette to visit a display at the Whitney Museum. Peter is just starting to acknowledge his middle ages, and he knows Bette is quitting the business because the 60-something has breast cancer. It is the combination of these events that halts Peter by a Rodin sculpture he otherwise had not regarded? On the way to the contemporary galleries, Peter pauses before the Rodin at the entrance to Nineteenth-Century European. Bette goes a few paces ahead, turns, and comes back. “Still here,” she says. They came for the Hirst, why is Peter stopping? Hasn’t he seen the Rodin a thousand times? Peter says, “You know how…” “Yes?” “How something pops out at you sometimes?” “Today, Rodin pops out?” “Yeah. I don’t know why.” Bette settles beside Peter with that aspect of mother-alligator calm she can summon. This is probably how she was with her sons when they were small, when they were fascinated by something that bored her – this attitude of informed but charitable willingness. This would be part of why they turned out okay. She says, “No denying its merits.” “No.” Here, as always, is Auguste Neyt, aka The Vanquished, aka The Bronze Age: perfect bronze man-child, exactly life-size, trim and lithe, holding his invisible spear. Rodin was still unknown when he sculpted and cast this naked man, sans Ancient Greek musculature or French devotion to allegory; Rodin was a minor figure then but proven right by time – the heroic age was dying out, the real was arriving for a long, long stay. Now Rodin has been and gone and yes, of course, he’s part of history, but new artists don’t revere him, no one makes a pilgrimage, you learn about him in school, you pass his sculptures on your way to see the Damien Hirst. Still, it’s a fucking bronze, it could last forever (didn’t the Koenig sphere survive 9/11?). Alien archeologists might unearth it one day, and really, would it be such bad evidence of who and what we were? Auguste Neyt, centuries dead by then, his name lost but his form preserved, nude, unidealized, merely young and healthy, with his life ahead of him.Something about this imagery sings, how it fits with Peter the husband and gallery owner, the man obsessed with beauty and art, who has come to realize that he himself is not timeless. Even though he lives in a Manhattan loft, takes taxis everywhere, mentions brand names of clothes, there’s still something universal about him that touches me.I will admit, it does seem odd – but it also makes sense – that this metrosexual would develop a crush on his 40-something wife’s young, young brother. Ethan, aka Mizzy, aka The Mistake, has come to stay with Peter and Rebecca after a stint in rehab, after visiting a Japanese shrine, to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Mizzy is almost twenty years younger than Peter; he is beautiful and reckless, and he has his whole life ahead of him. Even in a certain light, he looks like a young Rebecca. Why wouldn’t open-minded Peter fall a little bit in love - even with young man, especially with a young man like he was - at this critical juncture in his life?People can argue that Peter is narcissistic, self-absorbed. Michael Cunningham knows that; even Peter Harris knows that. In a way, Americans have a tendency toward egocentrism – it’s bred in our culture – so some complaint by readers about Peter seems a bit quibbling. Peter is who he is, flawed, selfish. Should that make us dismiss his story? Does his Manhattan privilege or his silly crush make him less interesting, less worthy of our attention? No, it makes him human.We are all aging. I found the book a beautiful, narrow scope about this truth. Physical beauty passes; most artists don’t have visions that will change the way we see the world, and very few gallery owners will be the Svengali who get to find and cultivate a genius. Cunningham, who was shockingly good in his Pulitzer-Prize winner The Hours, isn’t trying to shatter the earth with his writing; he knows the chances are slim. His is borrowing from The Great Gatsby and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice; he acknowledges that. Cunningham is just trying to show us the truth in one small corner of our world. And in his microcosm, we can see hints of the universal. Yes, it’s a petty, small and selfish book full of silly people with equally silly wants. And I highly recommend it.

  • Rebeccahowden
    2019-03-30 13:17

    It would be difficult for anything to compare to Michael Cunningham’s utterly beautiful Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Hours, but his latest offering has that same dark and poignant charm, and is equally, if not more so, compelling.By Nightfall is about finding beauty and desire in surprising places – and what happens when that desire is focused on objects that don’t deserve it. The story is narrated by Peter Harris, a gallery-owner stuck in a quiet sort of midlife crisis. He goes about his day happily enough, but plagued by an intense yearning for something different, an escape from that oh-so-common dilemma of age, comfort and routine. He has a companionable marriage, a tense relationship with his adult daughter that frustrates him but seems like it might just be a faze, and a job that he likes in theory but struggles to find enough passion for his good-but-not-brilliant artists.Yet the real centre of the story is Peter’s wife Rebecca’s much younger brother Ethan – affectionately known within the family as Mizzy (a nickname deriving from the Mistake). 23-year-old Mizzy is both incredibly smart and strikingly attractive, but damaged by having been a child with “too much potential.” Having demonstrated too much brilliance and being obsessively doted on by his family, he’s paralysed and aimless, drifting around breaking hearts and seemingly caring about nothing. With no ambitions other than a vague interest in doing “something in the arts”, he traipses the globe frittering away his parents’ money, dipping into drug addiction, and just generally making a shambles of what should have been his charmed life.It’s when Mizzy comes to stay with Peter and Rebecca in New York that Peter finds a focus for his yearnings. At first disturbed by Mizzy’s striking resemblance to a younger Rebecca, he slowly falls under the spell of this “dangerous inspiration” that threatens, enticingly, to take him out of “the realm of the sensible.” On the surface a kind of dull and unremarkable man, Peter is inside deeply infatuated with beauty, the idea of art, and Mizzy becomes the perfect art object to captivate his desires. What the consequences might be of acting on his longings, and where this strange fantasy might take him, is a new dilemma that now slowly begins to consume his thoughts.By Nightfall is full of surprisingly delightful phrases and original descriptions and scenes that just burn into your memory. Moments when Peter catches a glimpse of Mizzy’s body and mistakes him fleetingly for Rebecca are delightfully chilling, and we can really feel the flush of disturbance mixed with desire that Peter must be feeling. A scene in the middle of the night when Peter comes across Mizzy standing naked in the kitchen, and despite Peter’s discomfort they just engage in a normal, casual conversation, is almost cinematic in the tension and sensuality it creates. I’ve heard many readers say they felt disappointed with this novel, mostly because they didn’t find any of the characters appealing. The problem might be that some readers fail to believe in the allure of Mizzy, and that’s understandable. He’s selfish and calculating and lazy, and in the end especially, he proves that he can be incredibly cruel and thoughtless. But for me, the peculiar magnetism of Mizzy is the aspect of the book that feels the most real and understandable.As a reader, I too fell half in love with this spoiled, careless asshole, and not just because he is supposedly so beautiful. I recognise this sort of guy – someone so mesmerising, who fills you with such desperate longing, so much inexplicable desire that it makes you sick, all despite the fact that you know he’s a complete jerk. I guess it’s something like the Heathcliff-effect, and it’s such an interesting dynamic. It’s the sort of feeling that just makes you feel so invigorated and so miserable at the same time, and it’s that awful combination that we see Peter experience quite vividly.Cross posted:

  • T4ncr3d1
    2019-04-05 11:12

    "La maggior parte della gente è convinta di non essere come la maggior parte della gente."Mi stupisce e un po' mi addolora scoprire così tanti giudizi tendenti al negativo sulla nuova fatica letteraria di Cunningham. Certo, ormai siamo ben lontani da quel gran capolavoro che fu Le Ore, e tutti i supposti grandi scrittori riescono difficilmente a sopravvivere ai loro capolavori. Eppure, rivendico la mia posizione fuori dal coro, e sono pronto a difendere questo romanzo che, seppur distante anniluce dal piccolo romanzo che di lui mi ha fatto innamorare, mi sembra meritevole di un giudizio largamente positivo.Al limite della notte è un romanzo che, a ben vedere, si presenta parecchio distante dalla precedente produzione dell'autore, sotto molteplici punti di vista, a cominciare da quello stilistico. A leggere i primi capitoli quasi stentavo a riconoscere in questo romanzo Cunningham: le dolci e raffinate liriche in prima persona hanno lasciato il posto ad una narrazione a tratti rigorosa e a tratti impetuosa in terza persona. Al presente. Ma ben presto ci si abitua, lasciandosi trasportare dallo straordinario flusso di coscienza che, sebbene in modo differente dal passato, Cunningham mostra ancora di saper elaborare magistralmente. E', questo, più di ogni altro, un romanzo intimistico; un romanzo lento, ma non per questo noioso o ridondante - come pure è stato detto -, caratterizzato da una spaventosa predominanza di spazi chiusi. Per almeno due terzi del romanzo il protagonista si muove nello spazio ristretto della sua abitazione e del suo luogo di lavoro (una galleria d'arte); uno spazio chiuso contrapposto allo sterminato spazio interiore, soggettivo, del protagonista, nel quale si agitano i suoi pensieri. E' essenzialmente questo il nucleo forte del romanzo, il suo zoccolo duro: la straordinaria caratterizzazione del protagonista, Peter, un quarantenne apparentemente come tanti, che riflette su se stesso, sul rapporto con la moglie, sull'arte (suo lavoro) e sulla vita. A dare la scossa è l'arrivo di Erry, il giovane fratello della moglie di Peter, un giovane problematico, affascinante, per il quale Peter perde la testa. Ma non è amore: non lo è mai, davvero, nonostante Peter riesca persino ad ammetterlo a se stesso. Ciò che Erry suscita in Peter è l'implacabile attrazione dell'Arte, della bellezza e della gioventù. L'attrazione di Peter per Erry è quanto di più lontano possa essere da quello stesso La morte a Venezia, che pure viene citato ed omaggiato più volte. Lo sfuggente ed incomprensibile Erry (incomprensibile fino alla fine, perché davvero le ragioni del suo comportamento scriteriato rimangono oscure fino alla fine), già simbolo vivente di Bellezza ed Arte, è la scossa che scuote la vita altrimenti noiosamente perfetta del protagonista. Erry non sembra avere una propria identità, e per questo diviene contenitore di identità fittizie e proiezioni psicologiche dal sapore freudiano: ora è il fratello morto di Peter, ora è la versione riveduta e corretta della figlia di Peter, lontana ed amareggiata, ora è persino la reincarnazione della moglie stessa. E Peter finisce persino col fantasticare di se stesso come padre di Erry. Tanti sono i conflitti umani che il solo personaggio di Erry riesce ad impersonare, e in questo sta davvero la grandezza di Cunningham. Fino ad una conclusione che lascia piacevolmente di stucco, rimettendo in discussione tutto quanto. O forse no.

  • Jane
    2019-03-31 12:13

    (Update, 4/2/13: reading Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just, in which she urges that not only does beauty not distract us from justice, but leads us to embrace it -- she writes, "anyone who sets out in the morning to defend beauty will surely by nightfall have arrived at the strategy of claiming that beauty assists justice," and I think that Cunningham's book acts out a number of premises embedded in her theory of aesthetics -- the search for beauty here distracts Peter from the good, but its presence is also shown as an instrument of the good.)Some books carry with them the memory of the circumstances under which we read them; Bonfire of the Vanities will always make me think of a hot backyard in Accra, and John Updike recalled reading The Portrait of the Lady during his subway commute as a young father.This book was so absolutely perfect that not only will I associate it with a long subway ride to Sugar Hill and back to Brooklyn on election day 2012 to vote -- thinking of the subway ITSELF makes me think of this book, and I ride the thing every day.I may have found the protagonist more sympathetic than I should have -- he may be a little more of antihero than I allowed -- but I don't think his confusion of beauty and truth is treated archly. Indeed, his musings made me laugh out loud a few times in sympathy with his position, though it would be a mistake to call this a funny book. The imaginary artists represented by the protagonist's gallery are quite convincing, for the passage in Mackinac: Cunningham's epigraph, from Rilke, reads "beauty is just the beginning of terror," but the Mackinac passage left this reader convinced that beauty has its own redemptive power. Perfect prose.PS, a quote: "What's astonishing to Peter is the way the work itself seems to change, more or less in the way of a reasonably pretty girl who is suddenly treated as a beauty....Renee Zellweger-moonfaced, squinty-eyed, a character actress if ever there was one-was just on the cover of Vogue, looking ravishing in a silver gown. It is, of course, a trick of perception-the understanding that that funny little artist or that quirky-looking girl must be taken with new seriousness-but Peter suspects there's a deeper change at work. Being the focus of that much attention (and, yes, of that much money) seems to differently excite the molecules of the art or the actress or the politician. It's not just a phenomenon of altered expectations, it's a genuine transubstantiation, brought about by altered expectations. Renee Zellweger becomes a beauty and would look like a beauty to someone who had never heard of her."

  • Katie O'Rourke
    2019-03-21 16:08

    I love Michael Cunningham. I thought The Hours was genius, even enjoyed his rough first stab at writing with A Home at the End of the World, but my all-time favorite was Flesh and Blood. Unfortunately, By Nightfall was missing the essential connection to the characters that made those books so great. Peter is vapid and self-obsessed. He’s a wealthy, white man living in New York City and finding his pampered life just slightly underwhelming. I found myself hoping some huge catastrophe would befall him - not because I need fiction to be dramatic, but because he is so extremely privileged it would take an enormous tragedy to bring him down to earth, make him relatable.The book is narrated by Peter- sometimes in third person, sometimes in second or first. The reader is in his head as he talks to himself about every mundane and superficial thing under the sun. He’s an art dealer, frustrated because he has yet to find an artist with real genius, someone that truly moves him and gives meaning to his life. When his wife’s much younger brother comes to stay with them, Peter views him as a mixture of his wife when she was in her twenties and his brother who died in his twenties. This leads Peter to question his sexuality and consider running away from his marriage, his job, and his life in New York. Of course, Peter isn’t really in love with his brother-in-law; he just wants to break free of his life.The little twist at the end was almost redeeming. Almost. This might have worked as a short story, trimming out the three-page description of an urn, the play-by-play of a dull work day, his constant self-conscious musings. And maybe we could have gotten a single description of his brother-in-law’s profile instead of - I don’t know - twenty?There were good things here. His description of his long marriage, the intense love coupled with a desire for escape from it, the depiction of their lovemaking toward the beginning of the book, the honesty with which he recognizes his wife getting older. For me, this relationship was the most interesting part of the book. There was just so much else to slog through.I wonder about the advice they give to writers to “write what you know.” Has Cunningham reached such a high level of success that all he knows are rich people, living in New York City, discussing art and whining about their not quite fulfilling lives? I’m getting really tired of literary fiction that is a slight variation on this same theme.

  • Elyse
    2019-04-14 08:06

    This is the first book I've read by Michael Cunningham!!! WOW!!! I'm a HUGE fan already!!! Yet--I'm *CLEAR* this is 'not' an author for 'many' people. I'm sure some people might 'hate' this book ---or at best think its great writing ---but the story is really about 'NOTHING'. This book speaks to my dark side --It feeds into my cerebral triple-Gemini complicated inner voice. It 'feeds' on my mind like an addiction ---(a BAD DRUG)...I'm not sure how healthy this book is for people like me ---(its too close to how my mind really operates as in 'thinks'):In layers --more layers --and more layersSometimes 'no words' at all could ever match the emotions-feelings-desires-thoughts-passions that are living 'within'. Michael Cunningham comes 'close' to expressing WITH WORDS that place from 'within'. Healthy or not...---I'm left wanting 'more' to read from this author!!....Its 'very' rare I read a book with THIS much HUMAN BEING MASTERY! (understanding relationships---complicated & vulnerable). The dialog in this book is soooooooooooooooo GOOD --stretching boundaries in the areas of love and sexuality. Allowing for a look into the need for 'safety'.... A marvelous book! To whom I this book 'might' be for:1)Those who enjoy a little avant garde in their reading (a look into the art scene in New York City)2) Couples in long term marriages....(who are willing to 'question' the big questions of life together)3) The brilliant or talented person who took the road of an ordinary life4) People who have experienced shame -- felt invisible -- or stuck in lifeHere is a 'sample' of the type of writing you find in this book:"I don't want to do 'nothing'. But I seem not to have some faculty other people have. Something that tells them to do 'this' or do 'that'. To go to medical school or join the Peace Corps or teach English as a second language. Everything seems perfectly plausible to me. And I can't quite see myself doing any of it."

  • Richard Stacey
    2019-04-08 14:19

    Cunningham barely got me through this rather lazily written book where very little happens and where I was was left struggling hard to care about any of the rather hazily drawn characters. The plot: a middle aged art dealer gets romantically obsessed with his wife's little brother.The big problem is the narrative- it is overly self-conscious. It is full of constant asides to tell (not show) us the reason for this or that aspect of human behaviour. At first it seems rather sex and the city hip and cool to have so many of these observations made but they soon really drag what little plot there is into a muddy pool of sludge. I was left wishing that Cunningham would get on with the novel. Digressions for digression sake are no fun! Yet, there are moments when the novel rears out of the mud. There is some great use of timeshift as we go back to the art dealer's childhood in what is a compelling (and v.welcome) diversion from the main plot!Overall, I really fail to see how this book got so many great reviews from top newspapers and critics. Or rather I feel Cunningham has a lot of friends in the media who are willing to give him a stamp of approval without reading this tired novel. It's very obvious he is a big Damien Hirst fan as he name drops him a lot- not a winning literary technique for me.The only clear message I got from this novel is that once you get to the top in art or writing (or most stuff) you can afford to be decadent and lazy as your reputation will carry you- as Cunninghams does here- enough to get me to read this in the first place!

  • Emily Yelencich
    2019-04-18 10:14

    As usual, Michael Cunningham delivers a beautiful representation of poignant human character. By Nightfall lands in the category of somewhat self-involved upper-middle class angst that I've been reading so much of lately. Cunningham walks a finer line than the others (like On Beauty, or Freedom), never quite giving way to complete degeneration, making it more relatable and potentially more haunting. I particularly liked the emphasis on Peter Harris' struggle with youth aging. Through the character of Mizzy, Cunningham portrays a jealousy of and nostalgia for youth while simultaneously remaining grounded in youth's transience. One of my favorite quotes in the novel: "This would be the moment to do him (Mizzy) in bronze, to try to capture the aching raw nerves of him, the all-but-unbearable final stages of his youth shimmer, as he begins to understand that his condition, like everybody’s, is serious, but before he begins to take the necessary steps to live semipeaceably in the actual world." The book is laden with loneliness and is extremely introverted; however, it does not end in despair, isolation, or a neat package. Good on you Michael Cunningham for working out something more realistically, complexly hopeful.

  • K2 -----
    2019-04-13 10:03

    A friend mentioned this book to me and I was excited to read it as I have read many of Cunningham's other books. I was disappointed. Overall felt it should have been a short story. There simply wasn't enough "there" there and although this was a theme in the book. It's not a book the shell out for in hardcover and I kept reading hoping it would redeem itself. Peter, is a middle aged art dealer married to Rebecca, an editor, who live in NYC. Their daughter has recently dropped out of college to work as a cocktail waitress and they have this eerie worry about her that lingers throughout the book in the background. Rebecca's dilettante younger brother Ethan shows up for an unknown length of stay the balance is their lives is set in motion. Ethan has been addicted to drugs and it becomes rather apparent that he is back into that dark world as soon as he arrives. He is a hyper-manipulative addict. There is no one in the book that will be the slightest bit attractive to most readers, leaving little room for empathy.My suggestion is to not bother with this book when there is so much of merit out there to read. It will be a long while until I am convinced to read another of his books, sad but true.