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The flow of his mind in daily life comes close to Cunningham’s marvelous channeling of Woolfe’s “Mrs. Warm and lively as a read, not a the challenging emulation of elemental mind we tag stream-of-consciousness.As time goes on the big question is what is really wrong with his life.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.The loss of his beloved brother to AIDS in the 80’s gnaws at his consciousness as well. I can’t tell if this restrained, bloodless tale is some form of indictment of the hollowness of modern life at the core of civilization, which we all tend to take New York City to be. There is no slicing of our soul here with the pathos of the road not taken.There is no redeeming humor or chaotic scramble for modes of youth like we get from so many masters of the mid-life crises (think Bellow, Updike, Russo). And maybe with the problems in the temptation to see people as living art.I know that I'm in the correct wave, suddenly: that I am in the presence of something grand.
That was an exercise in genre mixing, of wild and fantastical flights of fancy. I began thinking about “Death in Venice” by Mann, and suddenly Cunningham makes an allusion to it right in the middle of it.
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. I had very much forgotten about Cunningham, though I list him as my favorites, & now it is crystal clear why.
The best book I’ve read since Mario Vargas Llosa’s “The Feast of the Goat.” Really? Karma is doing me a favor; Fortuna’s Wheel, in my case, travels heavenward... I was left hella-impressed by “Specimen Days,” a book the literati have literally forgotten. I had very much forgotten about Cunningham, though I list him as my favorites, & now it is crystal clear why.
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 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.