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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|
A Home at the End of the World
Flesh and Blood
The Portable Walt Whitman
Specimen Days & Collect
Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose
Starred Review. Engaging Walt Whitman as his muse (and borrowing the name of Whitman's 1882 autobiography for his title), Cunningham weaves a captivating, strange and extravagant novel of human progress and social decline. Like his Pulitzer Prize–winning The Hours, the novel tells three stories separated in time. But here, the stage is the same (the "glittering, blighted" city of Manhattan), the actors mirror each other (a deformed, Whitman-quoting boy, Luke, is a terrorist in one story and a teenage prophet in another; a world-weary woman, Catherine, is a would-be bride and an alien; and a handsome young man, Simon, is a ghost, a business man and an artificial human) and weighty themes (of love and fear, loss and connection, violence and poetry) reverberate with increasing power. "In the Machine," set during the Industrial Revolution, tells the story of 12-year-old Luke as he falls in love with his dead brother's girlfriend, Catherine, and becomes convinced that the ghost of his brother, Simon, lives inside the iron works machine that killed him. The suspenseful "The Children's Crusade" explores love and maternal instinct via a thrilleresque plot, as Cat, a black forensic psychologist, draws away from her rich, white and younger lover, Simon, and toward a spooky, deformed boy who's also a member of a global network committed to random acts of terror. And in "Like Beauty," Simon, a "simulo"; Catareen, a lizard-like alien; and Luke, an adolescent prophet, strike out for a new life in a postapocalyptic world. With its narrative leaps and self-conscious flights into the transcendent, Cunningham's fourth novel sometimes seems ready to collapse under the weight of its lavishness and ambition—but thrillingly, it never does. This is daring, memorable fiction.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 19 months ago 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
I love Michael Cunningham, and this book (three distinct stories) is amazingly well written and is great for the overall story-telling that occurs throughout each piece.Published on August 2, 2011 by D. Demoin
I ADORE MC writings....so as soon as a book(before KINDLE) comes out, I am on line / online cause it's a journey you take with him. Read morePublished on July 11, 2011 by GUAMANIANINNYC