Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: By Nightfall

Title:  By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

Summary:  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.

My Review:  In many ways this is the typical Michael Cunningham novel.  Characters with potential, beautiful writing, but no discerning plot until the book is nearly finished.  He is one of the few writers, at least for me, that can pull this type of writing off and it's because, as I said, he is an amazing writer.  He strings words together like no one's business and I want to sit there and imprint the writing into my brain, some form of reader's osmosis.

I found the 3rd person perspective of just Peter's voice interesting, someone who is realize he's just getting by in what he's always perceived an amazing life, but the catlyst of the book is never something that really hits home.  It's slightly disturbing and probably necessary for the character, but not a big moment per se.

This lack of huge plot and reveal never bothered me because the writing is so superb. If there was ever an example of current author, who knows how to create scenes and emotions and write beautifully in contemporary literature, it's Michael Cunningham.

If you love words, read his books. If you want to be a writer, read his books. If you want a great plot, I'd take a pass on his books.

And seriously, I would like to be able to construct a sentence the way this man does.

Overall: 4 stars

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