Rebecca, a New York art magazine editor, is expecting a visit from her beautiful brother Ethan (referred to as Mizzy, or “The Mistake”). As the story begins, she and her husband Peter, an art gallery owner, discuss Mizzy’s arrival. The couple is unsure of how they will “parent” the recovering drug addict when he arrives. Riding home in a taxi, Rebecca and Peter arrive at the scene of an accident involving a horse-drawn carriage.
The couple attends a party, as they often do, although neither of them enjoys the events much. Both express discontent with their social circle, the routine of parties, and the predictable, generally unpleasant interactions. Their own interactions in the bedroom follow this pattern as well and as they have sex, it is clear that although some of the early luster of their relationship has faded, an element of passion is still there. Peter, who routinely has trouble sleeping, awakens in the middle of the night. After pouring himself a glass of vodka, he considers the subtleties of life.
The Bronze Age
Peter receives a call from his friend Bette. She has news she says she can only deliver in person, and the two agree to meet for lunch later that day. Meeting Bette for lunch at a downtown restaurant, Peter learns that his friend has breast cancer but that the doctors “got it;” she is expected to live. However, the diagnosis has inspired her to move from New York to Spain to “grow tomatoes” with her husband.
Peter and Bette visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art together. They look at a few pieces in the museum and Peter returns home. At the loft, he opens the shower door, mistaking Mizzy for his wife, and apologizes for the confusion.
Peter reminisces about the first time he met Rebecca’s rather peculiar family, as well as several lewd stories Rebecca recounted to him at the time. After Mizzy's shower, he and Peter discuss Mizzy’s recent trip to Japan. Mizzy reveals a desire to do something in the art world. The three have dinner together and Mizzy goes to sleep in the bedroom of Peter and Rebecca’s daughter, Beatrice.
Beatrice works in a hotel bar in Boston. Rebecca calls her daughter and the two have a rather bland and formulaic conversation. Peter gets on the phone with his daughter, briefly, and there is an obvious disconnect between the two. After hanging up, Peter and Rebecca discuss the situation. Both hope this is a phase that will pass. It occurs to Peter that his wife prefers Mizzy to her own daughter. He considers saying something about it, but instead says nothing as the two “settle in for sleep.”
Peter arrives at his gallery for work, greeted by Uta, a German coworker with whom Peter once contemplated having an affair. He wanders about the gallery, thinking over the ebb and flow of the art world. Peter makes several phone call promoting Victoria Hwang’s opening at his gallery as well as dealing with other business. Peter’s barber, Bobby, arrives to cut his hair. Bobby makes reference to Peter’s increasing grayness and offers to die his hair.
Peter obsesses about a pain in his stomach but continues to answer emails and return calls. While talking with his employees, Peter begins to feel nauseous. He rushes to the bathroom and vomits. Uta tells him to go home for awhile, which he reluctantly agrees to do. He takes a cab home and goes immediately to sleep.
Peter thinks about growing up with his affected brother Matthew and the dynamic between them. He remembers an attempt to put together a...
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