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Specimen Days: A Novel Paperback – April 18, 2006
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Book Description: In each section of Michael Cunningham's bold new novel, his first since The Hours, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, an older man, and a young woman. "In the Machine" is a ghost story that takes place at the height of the industrial revolution, as human beings confront the alienating realities of the new machine age. "The Children's Crusade," set in the early twenty-first century, plays with the conventions of the noir thriller as it tracks the pursuit of a terrorist band that is detonating bombs, seemingly at random, around the city. The third part, "Like Beauty," evokes a New York 150 years into the future, when the city is all but overwhelmed by refugees from the first inhabited planet to be contacted by the people of Earth.
Presiding over each episode of this interrelated whole is the prophetic figure of the poet Walt Whitman, who promised his future readers, "It avails not, neither time or place ... I am with you, and know how it is." Specimen Days is a genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in our greatest city and a meditation on the direction and meaning of America's destiny. It is a work of surpassing power and beauty by one of the most original and daring writers at work today.
|More from Michael Cunningham|
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Flesh and Blood
The Portable Walt Whitman
Specimen Days & Collect
Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
A compendium of three stories, like the Hours, Specimen Days tells three separate stories in three separate times, and like the Hours, they are interconnected. The first story is one of an industrailized New York, where machinery rules, and a young boy copes with life and death, and his infinite knowledge of Walt Whitman. The second story takes place in modern New York, as a black psychologist deals with terrorism in today's age. The third story zips along to a futuristic New York, with a trio of futuristic entities as they make their way through this world.
Whereas the Hours has clear and amazing connections, the reader must work more for the connections in this book, however, they are there. The most obvious one is Cunningham's use of essentially the same three characters in each story, continuining along with their own stories, There are more subtle and rich connections, and they are worth the discovery.
However, the thing I am most impressed about with this book is Cunningham's writing. There is a scene in the first story that exemplifies his writing style, and the beauty of his words. Lucas, a deformed adolscent, is sent on a mini-quest by none other than Walt Whitman, and Lucas finds himself in Central Park at the Bethesda fountain. As Lucas peers beyond the angels hands, he sees the impressive starlight, never having seen it before.Read more ›
Each scene's crispness of style and beautiful eloquence kept me enthralled from the first page to the last. The masterful usage of Whitman's own poetic talent profoundly adds to the novel as a whole and never detracts from Cunningham's own powerful and unique voice throughout his narratives.
I was particularly fond of the novellas "Like Beauty" and "The Children's Crusade." I found these two stories to be of considerable importance to our lives and I reread them both for their deep message and artistic voice.
The clever and imaginative style combined with a painter's eye for imagery makes it as memorable as the Hours and it absolutely stands on its own as a fantastically accomplished feat. There are few authors who can tap into true creativity these days like Cunningham can and any fan of his work should be quite satisfied with his latest!
Can't wait for more! I also highly recommended the exceptionally beautiful novel, "Anna's Trinity" by Howard Cobiskey
The first section of SPECIMEN DAYS is entitled "In the Machine." The main character, Simon, has just died, literally eaten by a metal stamping machine in a factory referred to as "the works," a Dickensian horror chamber of industrial mindlessness. Simon's betrothed, Catherine, works as a seamstress, sewing sleeves to bodices at a dress company named Mannahatta. Simon's birth-deformed, 12-year-old brother, Lucas, takes Simon's place in the same factory, on the same machine. Lucas's belief that he can hear his dead brother's voice in the machine leads him to a seemingly demented act that saves Catherine's life.
In the second section, titled "The Children's Crusade," Catherine becomes Cat, a 30-ish black woman trained as a psychologist, all intuitions and hunches. Cat works for the police department, taking hot line calls of would-be bombers and deciding which ones to take seriously.Read more ›
It appears Cunningham loses his nerve. What he seems to be flirting with saying, halfway through the second story in Specimen Days - a story set in present day New York in which the heroine has to cope with a group of suicide bombers who are children - is that we owe it to ourselves to try to understand the people who are trying to kill us, that terrorists, too, are human beings, and that denying their humanity and simply trying to exterminate them may not be the best long term solution to the problem. This idea bubbles near the surface when Cat, the heroine, attempts to disarm a child who is carrying a bomb and may set it off at any moment, killing them both: "Cat was seized by a spasm of dreadful compassion. Here was a monster; here was a frightened child.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm a particular fan of novellas; these three are really sweet. Not quite as complex as Cloud Atlas, but it reminded me of it a lot.Published on January 13, 2014 by jlmcmillan
This was actually a really thought-provoking book. Truly interesting with many different ideas. I think that this is a book that will continue to cross my mind for years.Published on June 20, 2013 by Spargle
Very interesting novel. First time reader of this authors work and he is very good. Love the constant references to Whitman..Published on July 14, 2012 by benjamin washington
Book Review for Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days
There are several books today that we are required to read in school, including The Crucible, Atlas Shrugged, Ethan... Read more
The original Specimen Days is an essay collection by Walt Whitman in which he reflects on wounded and dying soldiers, among other things, during the Civil War. Read morePublished on March 19, 2012 by Patti
Three stories, using the same three characters, at three different moments in time / history: past (NYC, early 20th century); present; dystopian future. Read morePublished on February 26, 2012 by C H Miller