By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: September 2010
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 the family 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.
I read By Nightfall as part of The Literary Others LGBT reading event hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.
By Nightfall was listed at Over the Rainbow Books and was a finalist for gay fiction in the 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards.
I know the dude won a Pulitzer for The Hours, and this book was smiled upon by critics as well. But By Nightfall didn’t do it for this girl. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.
The writing was agreeable. The story was fine. What I didn’t like was the whiff of smarty-pants snobbery. Maybe I’m a sensitive person. Maybe I don’t like a book that talks down about my area of the country. Repeatedly.
In conclusion, it was an ok read. Would I read it again? Nah.