By Nightfall A Novel

Michael Cunningham




Trade Paperback

256 Pages


Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

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 brother-in-law's presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

Like his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s new book is a heartbreaking look at the way we live now. Feeling shocks and aftershocks, readers will think deeply about the uses and meaning of beauty.


Praise for By Nightfall

“[Cunningham] makes you turn the pages. He tells a story here, but not too much a story. You aren’t deadened by detail; you’re eager to know what happens next.”—Jeanette Winterson, The New York Times Book Review
“The novel is less a snapshot of the way we live now than a consideration of the timeless consolations of love and art in the shadow of death, and its resolution—inevitable yet startling, like the slap of a wave—is a triumph.”—The New Yorker
“Rather witty and a little outrageous . . . 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 . . . a cerebral, quirky reflection on the allure of phantom ideals and even, ultimately, on what a traditional marriage needs to survive.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
By Nightfall, is a slim book that takes on some big issues: the evolving relationship of long-married couples, the often-fraught bond between parents and their adult children, the duty siblings have to one another. But it also enlarges to consider the role that beauty plays in our lives and the necessarily one-sided nature of our relationship with it.  ‘By Nightfall’ is philosophy masquerading as a story . . . Instead of a novel overflowing with flesh and sweat, rage and craziness, Cunningham has given us a well-considered treatise.”—Nancy Connors, The Plain Dealer
"Cunningham is a past master at exploring gender-bending realities and bicurious relationships; here he is at his best. The rest of the story falls away as the connection between Peter and Ethan takes center stage. What flows from it, in Cunningham's perfect rendering, is poignant and heartbreaking . . . Cunningham . . . has crafted a meditation on beauty, love and the love of beauty above all else."—Valerie Ryan, Shelf Awareness
"In his most concentrated novel, a bittersweet paean to human creativity and its particularly showy flourishing in hothouse Manhattan, virtuoso and Pulitzer winner Cunningham entwines eroticism with aesthetics to orchestrate a resonant crisis of the soul, drawing inspiration from Henry James and Thomas Mann as well as meditative painter Agnes Martin and provocateur artist Damien Hirst. The result is an exquisite, slyly witty, warmly philosophical, and urbanely eviscerating tale of the mysteries of beauty and desire, art and delusion, age and love."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review) 

In the Press

'Nightfall' video book review with Ron Charles
The Washington Post's fiction critic lets fly another wacky video review with a rundown of author Michael Cunningham's latest offering.
Work in Progress » Blog Archive » My Library: Michael Cunningham
Around the hardcover publication for Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall, I was fortunate enough to produce a short video series with him and his student, the polymath James Franco.

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The Mistake is coming to stay for a while.
“Are you mad about Mizzy?” Rebecca says.
“Of course not,” Peter answers.
One of the inscrutable old horses that pull tourist carriages has been hit by a car somewhere up on Broadway, which has stopped traffic all the way down to the Port Authority, which is making Peter and Rebecca late.
“Maybe it’s time to start calling him Ethan,” Rebecca says. “I’ll bet nobody calls him Mizzy anymore but us.”
Mizzy is short for the Mistake.
Outside the cab, pigeons clatter
Read the full excerpt



  • Michael Cunningham and James Franco on Youth

    The two discuss youth, how to inhabit characters, and the worst question to ask an author.

  • Michael Cunningham and James Franco on Writing

    The two discuss writing fiction, MFA programs, and the importance of rigor.

  • Michael Cunningham and James Franco Meet

    The two discuss their new books and how they met.

  • By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Michael Cunningham's New York Times bestselling novel By Nightfall, narrated by Hugh Dancy. Peter and Rebecca Harris, midforties, are prosperous denizens of Manhattan. He's an art dealer, she's an editor. They live well.



  • Michael Cunningham

  • Michael Cunningham was raised in Los Angeles and lives in New York City. He is the bestselling author of The Hours, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was adapted into an Academy Award–winning film; A Home at the End of the World; Laws for Creations; Specimen Days; Flesh and Blood; and By Nightfall.  He is the recipient of a Whiting Writer's Award. He is a Professor at Brooklyn College for the M.F.A program.
  • Michael Cunningham © Richard Phibbs
    Michael Cunningham




Download PDF



Go to website


Sign Up