By Nightfall

A Novel

Michael Cunningham

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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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.

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Book Excerpts

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A PARTY
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.

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Media

Watch and Listen

Michael Cunningham and James Franco Meet

The two discuss their new books and how they met.

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Michael Cunningham and James Franco on Writing

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

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Michael Cunningham and James Franco on Youth

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

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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.

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Reviews

Praise for By Nightfall

“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
 
“[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
 
“Where art and humanity converge and where they part form a double helix in By Nightfall and account for the novel’s most considered and lovely prose. Cunningham’s observations of our desperate search for the real fill and break the heart.” —Ellen Kanner, Miami Herald
 
“So many of Cunningham’s physical descriptions read like confident prose poems, where you imagine what’s left between the lines . . . As a testament to the richness of the literary imagination, ‘By Nightfall’ is a success. You can’t read this novel without the sense of how worlds can be found in a drop of water, or in an offhand comment, or in the curve of a vase. . . ‘By Nightfall’ is a meditation on beauty, and it has its own indelible qualities of beauty.” —Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe
 
“Beauty, in its infinite variety and its power to transfix and seduce and delude, is a central theme of ‘By Nightfall,’ the latest from the author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel ‘The Hours.’ Add the mysteries and fears of aging and mortality to the agenda, and you have echoes here of Oscar Wilde and Thomas Mann . . . the attentive reader is rewarded with a wise and exhilarating epiphany at the end.” —Misha Berson, The Seattle Times
 
“Cunningham can really write. And so he transforms a set of predictable elements into an unpredictable and engrossing read. ‘By Nightfall’ is an exemplar of the crossover megahit that authors of all genders and genres dream of: an entertaining page-turner that’s bound for, and deserving of, literary eternity . . . There’s nothing minor about Cunningham’s heart, or his talent. ‘By Nightfall’ deserves every superlative it has summoned.” —Meredith Maran,  San Francisco Chronicle
 
“[Cunningham’s] vigorous explorations of art and its meaning—along with a thick veil of eroticism—keep the pages turning.” —Eric Liebetrau, People
 
“Cunningham has again pulled off his trick of combining the novel of ideas with the juicy read. The characters in ‘By Nightfall’ deceive, spy on and gossip about one another; but while all that is going on, ‘Nightfall’ also studies the concepts of beauty and genius as they are expressed in the contemporary art world . . . The verdict: ‘By Nightfall’ is a delicious book and will make a fine movie, as did ‘The Hours’ and ‘A Home at the End of the World.’ A straight man who suddenly falls for his wife's brother may seem like a stretch for mass appeal—but then didn’t Mrs. Dalloway?” —Marion Winik, Newsday
 
“In this rueful, daring and expansive novel, Cunningham gives us deep and thrilling access to the mind and heart of a  searching, cynical, self-deprecating-except-when-he’s-self-aggrandizing modern male.” —Pam Houston, More
 
“There are sentences here so powerfully precise and beautiful that they almost hover above the page.” —Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly
 
“Beautifully written. . . Cunningham manages to perfectly capture post-9/11 New York City, with keen observations about anxiety, fidelity, aging, the art world and the somewhat impossible pursuit of what we think of as happiness.” —Very Short List
 
“A ravishing and witty tale of yearning and hubris.” —Donna Seaman, The Kansas City Star
 
“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)
 
“Michael Cunningham’s newest novel, ‘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

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.
- The Washington Post

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.
- FSG's Work in Progress


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About the Author

Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham was raised in Los Angeles and lives in New York City. He is the author of the novels The Hours, A Home at the End of the World, Specimen Days, and Flesh and Blood. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories, and he is the recipient of a Whiting Writer's Award. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for The Hours, which was a New York Times bestseller, and was chosen as a Best Book of 1998 by The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Publishers Weekly. He is a Professor at Brooklyn College for the M.F.A program.

Michael Cunningham

© Richard Phibbs
Michael Cunningham

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Available Formats and Book Details

By Nightfall
A Novel
Michael Cunningham

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429978095
ISBN10: 1429978090
256 pages
$9.99

Unabridged Compact Disc

Unabridged  Compact Disc
Macmillan Audio
September 2010
Unabridged Compact Disc
ISBN: 9781427210579
ISBN10: 1427210578
5 7/8 x 5 1/8 inches, Audio Run Time: 7:45
$34.99

Unabridged Digital Audio

Unabridged  Digital Audio
Macmillan Audio
September 2010
Unabridged Digital Audio
ISBN: 9781427210586
ISBN10: 1427210586
Audio Run Time: 8:30
$17.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 2010
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374299088
ISBN10: 0374299080
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 256 pages
$25.00

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
August 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312610432
ISBN10: 0312610432
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 256 pages
$15.00
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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