By Nightfall – Michael Cunningham

BNSo you’re forty-four, well-established in the art world, married for twenty years and you fancy your brother-in-law (aged 23, returned from ‘finding himself’ in the Far East, a drug taking Narcissus.)! You’ve walked in on him in the shower, thinking, from the view of his back, that it is his wife.

“By Nightfall” is a line from Rilke “Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror.”

Well written but typical midlife crisis novel except that the man falls in love with a boy rather than girl. Reminiscent of the film ‘American beauty’ with the mention of a plastic bag. Some have also seen traces of Death in Venice in this story.

Peter’s regards himself as a “servant of beauty.” He starts to feel “[a] conviction, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that some terrible, blinding beauty is about to descend and, like the wrath of God, suck [the world] all away, orphan us, deliver us, leave us wondering how exactly we’re going to start it all over again.”

He becomes insomniac, talking to himself and wandering through the streets of lower Manhattan in the early hours.

At one stage, he thinks: “We–we men–are the frightened ones, the blundering and nervous ones; if we act the skeptic or the bully sometimes it’s because we suspect we’re wrong in some deep incalculable way that women are not. Our impersonations are failing us and our vices and habits are ludicrous and . . . we have no idea about anything that actually matters.”

There’s a good description of the routineness of married sex, a telling comment about a wise child sent to live among common people until his time comes, in a family where ‘most people think they’re not most people’, who didn’t torment their son as they suspected the world would do enough of that later on and who insist on family time’ even when, especially when no one enjoys it any more.

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