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By Nightfall

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  8,917 ratings  ·  1,307 reviews
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 (kn ...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.42  · 
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 ·  8,917 ratings  ·  1,307 reviews

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Violet wells
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
As subject matter for a novel the midlife crisis of an affluent New York art dealer doesn't inspire much excitement. And I'm afraid I found nothing in this novel to get excited about. Perhaps it's only interesting feature was the disparity between what our narrator says in public and what he thinks in private. He lives in two different worlds. Most of what comes out of his mouth is facile insincere junk. And he's so self-engrossed it never occurs to him that everyone else might not mean half the ...more
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 f
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 i ...more
John Arfwedson
Jan 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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 deep
Richard Kramer
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 apart
Dec 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 wri ...more
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Paul E. Morph
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book 10 of 2019.

A cynical person (not me, obviously; I’m never cynical) might suggest an alternate title for this book could be ‘First World Problems’. They might also suggest the book is just a tad on the pretentious side.

As I say, though, I don’t have a cynical bone in my body (cough) so I’ll just say that I really found myself completely sucked into this little story. I was 100% engaged the entire time and found the author’s style really rather beautiful in places.

This is a story about art,
Ally Armistead
Oct 19, 2010 rated it liked it
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 ...more
I really didn't like the main protagonist of this book. Peter is a middle-aged art dealer in New York City, feeling sorry for himself, obsessed with beauty and youth, and wishing his wife, Rebecca, was the younger version of herself. Then Rebecca's much younger brother Mizzy (The Mistake), a genius/drug addict/ Yale drop out drifter type in his early 20's comes to visit them for some time. Peter falls in, what he calls, love with him, what I would call lust and a slight obsession. In Mizzy he se ...more
Catherine B.
Dec 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2010
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 b
Greg Zimmerman
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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'
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

Quote 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 si
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 Re
Elyse  Walters
Dec 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Bill Krieger
Nov 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 h
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 da
Lars Guthrie
Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 sudde
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Ron Charles
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels-about-art
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 t ...more
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, novels, new-york
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
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
The very beginning and the very end of this book are well written, with a veracity I felt lacking in the rest of the story. (I should have known I wouldn’t appreciate a tale with a NYC art dealer as protagonist.)
Jason Pettus
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
(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 o
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
(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 ...more
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, fiction, gift
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 ef
Apr 04, 2011 rated it liked it
This is my second reading and I lowered my rating from 4 to 3. It was just OK.
Renita D'Silva
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
An honest, incisive portrait of a long marriage.
Katie O'Rourke
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 befal
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this is what AmazonUK says of this book 3 62 Nov 03, 2013 01:32AM  

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Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award & Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non-fiction book, Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown. His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of 2014. He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University. ...more

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