Peter and Rebecca Harris live an upscale life in New York where he is an art dealer with his own gallery while she edits an art magazine. Her much younger brother Ethan (known as Mizzy – for Mistake), a recovering drug addict, comes to visit for awhile, confiding in Peter that he wants to get into “something artistic.” Their daughter Bea is in Boston tending bar. Peter’s brilliant gay older brother is dead and Peter has adopted Rebecca’s family.
Peter has lots of issues to deal with aside from the issues of Mizzy and Bea; a good friend and business associate has breast cancer, a special collector has special needs, the new artist has troubles. But what really gets to him is Mizzy, he’s hot for Mizzy’s bod, and Bea, he’s riddled with guilt.
For the most part I didn’t much care for this book. There is way too much emphasis on graphic sex for me – straight and gay – it’s gratuitous. Another problem is the over-abundance of literary references used as metaphor – Thomas Mann, F. Scott Fitzgerald, others – they were good for the themes but they just seemed somewhat out of character somehow. (One literary character Cunningham missed was Merry from Philip Roth’s American Pastoral – it’s Bea!)
On the good side, the point of view is basically third person. but Peter’s thoughts on everything occur so often that it might as well be first person – call it third person intimate, I guess. The reader has to pay attention to the quote marks because otherwise it would be very unclear whether Peter thought something or actually said it – I had to check myself several times. But I’ve got to commend Cunningham for maintaining that act all the way through.
The setting is interesting if not the relationship Peter has (or doesn’t have) with his wife, Bea, Mizzy, and others.