The only problem with Michael Cunningham’s prose is that it ruins you for mere mortals’ work. He is the most elegant writer in America. Admittedly, elegance doesn’t carry much cachet these days when Important Novels are supposed to make strident social arguments that we already agree with. But in the presence of truly beautiful writing, a kind of magic vibrates off the page. That’s the aura of Cunningham’s pensive new novel, Day. He has developed a style calibrated to capture moments of ineffable longing ... In a novel as thinly plotted as Day, everything depends upon the exquisite flow of Cunningham’s language, but quotations don’t do his work justice.
You have to read these sentences yourself in context ... Aging, along with its attendant separations and swelling sense of irrelevance, is the novel’s abiding preoccupation. I would accuse Cunningham of projecting his 71-year-old anxieties, but these characters, barely middle-aged, are wholly convincing exemplars of America’s new lost generation. At their backs they always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near.
I always hate these sorts of plot summaries in reviews — a bunch of characters caught up in trivial-sounding minutiae: Who cares? But Cunningham beautifully pries apart the notion of what it means to have outgrown something, to be living in the liminal space between an earlier self and a future self ... In this novel that puzzles over the elasticity of all kinds of love — familial, parental, erotic, queer, fraternal, ambiguous — I yearned for Cunningham to forget his literary peers and stick with his own special talent ... When Cunningham writes like himself, and not like an apostle, he is one of love’s greatest witnesses.
If the kindness between Cunningham’s characters stretches beyond strict verisimilitude, it’s part of their charm. The nervous, meandering dialogue, witty without being aggressively so, is pleasant to listen in on ... By the end, the members of the family seem to have laid their ghosts to rest: They’re reconciled to moving forward and to living in conflicts that have come to seem almost jolly. The peace seems a little willed, but maybe a critique is implied there, too.