From Publishers Weekly
Contemplating an affair that never was, SoHo art dealer Peter Harris laments that he "could see it all too clearly." The same holds true for Cunningham's emotionally static and drearily conventional latest (after Specimen Days). Peter and his wife, Rebecca--who edits a mid-level art magazine--have settled into a comfortable life in Manhattan's art world, but their staid existence is disrupted by the arrival of Rebecca's much younger brother, Ethan--known as Mizzy, short for "The Mistake." Family golden child Mizzy is a recovering drug addict whose current whim has landed him in New York where he wants to pursue a career in "the arts." Watching Mizzy--whose resemblance to a younger Rebecca unnerves Peter--coast through life without responsibilities makes Peter question his own choices and wonder if it's more than Mizzy's freedom that he covets. Cunningham's sentences are, individually, something to behold, but they're unfortunately pressed into the service of a dud story about a well-off New Yorker's existential crisis.
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*Starred Review* Peter Harris, a dispirited Soho gallery owner in his midforties, arrives home to find his wife in the shower and marvels at how lithe she looks through the steam, then realizes that he’s admiring her much younger brother. Called the Mistake, or Mizzy, he’s a lost soul, a junkie and moocher as sexy as he is manipulative. Mizzy appears just as Peter, brooding, romantic, and self-deprecating, is grappling with his failings as a father and an art dealer. Ceaselessly observant, Peter senses, or hopes for, “some terrible, blinding beauty” that will topple his carefully calibrated life, and why shouldn’t it be his alluring, feckless brother-in-law? Even if this mad infatuation stems from Peter’s deep grief for his brilliant and fearless gay brother, who died of AIDS. 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