Tuesday, October 05, 2010


My tastes in literature, as opposed to philosophy, run toward the lyrical. I prefer Fitzgerald to Hemingway, James M. Cain to Dashiel Hammett, and Thomas Mann, to I dunno, Theodore Dreiser. I’m also not particularly drawn to the highly-experimental; I like a good yarn more than an exploration of new forms; it doesn’t have to be Stephen King all the time, but I lose patience with Thomas Pynchon, my successful assault on Gravity’s Rainbow to the contrary.

Consequently, one of my favorite contemporary writers has long been Michael Cunningham, whose 1990 novel A Home at the End of the World broke my heart with its tale of love and longing among childhood friends and family; I’m a sucker for a good bildungsroman and this had that and more, including an unforgettable scene of a beautiful boy, high on acid, exploding into a plate glass window and bleeding to death while his girlfriend and brother looked on.

A couple years later, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably at the end of his book, Flesh and Blood, as I read the final passage that, in perhaps a somewhat contrived way, forecast the futures of the main characters; something about the way their lives unfolded forward just floored me, perhaps it made me confront the inevitability of my own outcomes; maybe I just mourned the passages of individuals I’d gotten to know.

The Hours,
of course, squeezed my heart in all the right places, and the movie turned me into a wet dishrag from the first scene of Virginia Woolf with stones in her pocket.

Specimen Days, not so much, but I appreciated the effort.

His new book, though, By Nightfall, did it to me all over again, especially a passage where the main character, Peter Harris, reflects on the estrangement he feels from his young adult daughter as they awkwardly talk on the phone. “There is a spiky blossoming in his chest,” writes Cunningham.

Exactly what I felt, leaking tears.


Blogger Deb's Lunch said...

Ahh good, undaunted by specimen days, I have By Nightfall on hold at the library - I'm #24 out of 31, so maybe not too long to wait for a godo read.

12:24 PM  

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