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Specimen Days

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Specimen Days Cover

ISBN13: 9780312425029
ISBN10: 0312425023
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

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Staff Pick

Specimen Days, a novel in three parts, showcases Michael Cunningham's capacity to evoke complex characters and expansive emotional reactions. Featuring a host of shifting but related characters — including a lizard-like alien and a precocious boy with a misshapen head — the three sections are drawn together by the poetry of Walt Whitman, a fitting theme for a book which encompasses the great violence, desperation, and celebration of America. Specimen Days is a strange and beautiful book, and well worth exploring.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Specimen Days, a novel in three parts, showcases Michael Cunningham's capacity to evoke complex characters and expansive emotional reactions. Featuring a host of shifting but related characters — including a lizard-like alien and a precocious boy with a misshapen head — the three sections are drawn together by the poetry of Walt Whitman, a fitting theme for a book which encompasses the great violence, desperation, and celebration of America. Specimen Days is a strange and beautiful book, and well worth exploring.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"Michael Cunningham is one of the most humane and moving writers we have; but the toiling quality of Specimen Days suggests that (unlike, say, David Mitchell) he may lack the naturally impassioned formalism required to make a multi-genre novel come truly to life." Jospeh O'Neill, the Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)

"Cunningham dutifully includes all the things that Whitman surely would have written about had he lived today: September 11 and terrorism, Harvard MBAs, interstellar travel, the soulless modern office with its late-day, bottom-of-the-pot coffee sludge. It is a testament to the faith that we place in the novel that we sometimes think that it can do everything at once. But everything is a very big subject. Michael Cunningham's imagination is not as vast as Whitman's, and his talents are no match for so many multitudes." Deborah Friedell, the New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

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. Agent, Gail Hochman. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Brilliantly conceived, empathic, darkly humorous, and gorgeously rendered...a genuine literary event." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Cunningham's vivid prose captures the intricate weave of love and expectation that propels the hopes of one generation as it fades into another." Library Journal

Review:

"Intelligent, emotionally complex, and immensely readable even while weighted with a deeper grief and despair. This is an astonishing accomplishment and the best book Cunningham has written." Vince Passaro, O (The Oprah Magazine)

Review:

"[A] work of genius so original it unfolds with a whiff of inevitability. You will find it hard to believe it did not exist before....Cunningham knows that beauty and sadness always come hand in hand, but he asks, do they have to be united by destruction?" Hartford Courant

Review:

"[A] tour de force — a show of the astonishing variety of styles and voices of which he's capable....[A] book that's passionate in its weaving together of images and ideas, both startling the mind and touching the heart." San Jose Mercury News

Review:

"[A] compelling read....Like Margaret Atwood and her chilling futuristic The Handmaid's Tale, Cunningham leaps into the realm of imagination. Yet because Whitman remains Cunningham's inspiration, the novelist offers a form of hope." USA Today

Review:

"Readers who want...The Hours all over again might be disappointed with this novel. It isn't seamless, and each story has a slightly fleeting feel, as though we are leaving one too soon to get to the next. But there's a quality of plain old pleasure here, too." Boston Globe

Review:

"Ultimately, this weird, confounding novel won me over (I still find myself thinking about it), and I've no doubt it'll be provoking all sorts of interesting conversations and arguments for months to come." Minneapolis Star Tribune

Review:

"The novel succeeds in spite of itself. It is, in three daring swoops, a poetic meditation on what it means to be human, a cautionary tale about the separation of progress from morality, and an eloquent call to rebellion against the powers that be." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review:

"Provocative and disturbing....Cunningham crosses genres elegantly. The naturalism of late 19th-century fiction becomes the police thriller, which ends up as science fiction." Baltimore Sun

Review:

"[E]xquisitely written but bizarre and disjointed....As with...The Hours, Cunningham has set his three stories in three different eras, though here he stitches them together with far less finesse. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"[W]hen you close the book you won't be thinking about [its] minor flaws. Instead you'll be pondering Cunningham's big, haunting, beautiful vision of who we were, are and one day might be." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"While Specimen Days may have its flaws, it is clearly and often compellingly the work of a gifted storyteller with an ambitious mind and a lyrical writing style." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Specimen Days contains multitudes, all right — Whitmanesque awe for life's genuine wonders and dismay at its horrors — but they haven't been fused into any cause for celebration." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"[R]eads like a clunky and precious literary exercise...that intermittently reveals glimpses of the author's storytelling talents, but too often obscures those gifts with self-important and ham-handed narrative pyrotechnics." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Synopsis:

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.

Synopsis:

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, a man, and a 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.

Michael Cunningham is the author of the bestselling novel The Hours, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. He also wrote A Home at the End of the World, which was also adapted for the screen, and Flesh and Blood. He lives in New York.
A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year

A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

 

In each section of Michael Cunningham's novel, his first since The Hours, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, a man, and a 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.

"It is his unique moral vision that successfully hinges three distinct narrative panels into a triptych of unified beauty. It's what raises his individual stories out of their genres into the glorious realm of art . . . Big, haunting, beautiful."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"These three novellas give loose rein to his playful genius for description and rollicking plot."—Ethan Canin, The Washington Post Book Review

"It is his unique moral vision that successfully hinges three distinct narrative panels into a triptych of unified beauty. It's what raises his individual stories out of their genres into the glorious realm of art . . . Big, haunting, beautiful."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[Specimen Days] is a love song of a novel, rich and melancholy and overflowing with smartness."—The Boston Globe

"In his first novel since The Hours, Michael Cunningham explores the unsettling effects of the industrial age. Splendid prose in a mesmerizing tale that tweaks our standard measures of time."—Chicago Tribune

"Clearly and often compellingly the work of a gifted storyteller with an ambitious mind and a lyrical writing style."—San Francisco Chronicle

"An extraordinary book, as ambitious as it is generous . . . I promise you fun, marvels, adventure, love stories, plus the uninhibited exercise of a great natural writer and an inspired historian. . . . This is a transforming book, the lovely, tattered record of our time and place, and of our wish to prevail."—David Thomson, The New York Observer

"Stunning . . . It is a rich reading experience, going from the brutal factory scenes to the thriller of the middle section, and then on to the brave new world of the final section. Cunningham has made something substantively and stylistically bold out of these stories, keeping his many fires stoked and pulling the parts together as a brilliant whole."—The Seattle Times

"Cunningham's experimentation with the genres brings his prose to new energy . . . [It] is exactly the kind of bold experiment that a novelist who takes his art seriously ought to make."—New York magazine

"Cunningham is a canny propagandist for the importance of imaginative literature . . . [He] crosses genres elegantly."—The Baltimore Sun

"An appealing and inventive fiction that indicates the range of as well as future possibilities for the novel . . . Cunningham's innovative triptych structure compels the reader, even after the novel is finished, to look for connections and patterns among the three strands . . . The intertextual dialogue between the three novellas and the sheer invention of the project should provide sufficient rewards for any reader."—The News & Observer (Raleigh)

"Michael Cunningham's new novel is extraordinary. It is strange and unusual and awkward to describe. It is also brilliant, as good as if not better than his stunning previous novel, The Hours . . . Specimen Days is a magnificent novel."—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Quite simply and even more impressively than in The Hours, Cunningham writes like an angel . . . Read this magical, spellbinding novel."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Cunninghams exquisite prose transcends the genres he has set for himself . . . It is easy to imagine [Whitman] beaming down his approval at Cunninghams strong-armed embrace of all that is America, as he beautifully articulates the frustrations of modern life . . . Like Whitman, Cunningham too sings America, in all its grime and glory . . . and Specimen Days is a book of wonders."—The Times Picayune (New Orleans)

"This is the most intriguing, stimulating, and artistically satisfying novel I've read in years . . . Cunningham takes material that in other hands might be titillating science fiction and masterfully turns it into heartfelt, poignant, and engaging human drama."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Cunningham's latest novel—actually, three novellas—is breathtaking . . . Impossible to put down, so dazzling is its prose, so complex are the ideas it wrestles with, and so generous is its vantage point . . . It is, in three daring swoops, a poetic mediation on what it means to be human, a cautionary tale about the separation of progress from morality, and an eloquent call to rebellion against the powers that be. Walt Whitman, in all of his bearded amplitude, must be smiling."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Brilliantly conceived, empathic, darkly humorous, and gorgeously rendered, Cunningham's galvanizing novel about the quest for justice and freedom, the parameters of the soul, the hunger for beauty, and the fluid interface between the natural and the engineered is a genuine literary event. Y.A.: The magnetic characters and edgy action will carry teens through."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (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."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author

Michael Cunningham's most recent, best-selling novel, The Hours, won both the Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner award, and became an Academy Award-winning film starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep. An earlier novel, A Home at the End of the World, was recently made into a film starring Colin Farrell, Dallas Roberts, Sissy Spacek, and Robin Wright Penn. Cunningham lives in New York.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Susmita Dubey, December 20, 2010 (view all comments by Susmita Dubey)
I read this because I liked "The Hours" so much, and was not disappointed. Specimen Days is in some ways similar to The Hours, in that the stories -- set in three different time periods -- are intertwined, but it is also very different in the style of the stories. The commonalities among the three parts of Specimen Days include Walt Whitman, whose poetry is quoted by several characters throughout the book, as well as the impact of machinery on human lives. A very good and thought-provoking read.
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(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312425029
Author:
Cunningham, Michael
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
New york (n.y.)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20060431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.31 x 5.51 x 0.91 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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Specimen Days Used Trade Paper
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$4.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Picador USA - English 9780312425029 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Specimen Days, a novel in three parts, showcases Michael Cunningham's capacity to evoke complex characters and expansive emotional reactions. Featuring a host of shifting but related characters — including a lizard-like alien and a precocious boy with a misshapen head — the three sections are drawn together by the poetry of Walt Whitman, a fitting theme for a book which encompasses the great violence, desperation, and celebration of America. Specimen Days is a strange and beautiful book, and well worth exploring.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Specimen Days, a novel in three parts, showcases Michael Cunningham's capacity to evoke complex characters and expansive emotional reactions. Featuring a host of shifting but related characters — including a lizard-like alien and a precocious boy with a misshapen head — the three sections are drawn together by the poetry of Walt Whitman, a fitting theme for a book which encompasses the great violence, desperation, and celebration of America. Specimen Days is a strange and beautiful book, and well worth exploring.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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. Agent, Gail Hochman. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Michael Cunningham is one of the most humane and moving writers we have; but the toiling quality of Specimen Days suggests that (unlike, say, David Mitchell) he may lack the naturally impassioned formalism required to make a multi-genre novel come truly to life." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review A Day" by , "Cunningham dutifully includes all the things that Whitman surely would have written about had he lived today: September 11 and terrorism, Harvard MBAs, interstellar travel, the soulless modern office with its late-day, bottom-of-the-pot coffee sludge. It is a testament to the faith that we place in the novel that we sometimes think that it can do everything at once. But everything is a very big subject. Michael Cunningham's imagination is not as vast as Whitman's, and his talents are no match for so many multitudes." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Review" by , "Brilliantly conceived, empathic, darkly humorous, and gorgeously rendered...a genuine literary event."
"Review" by , "Cunningham's vivid prose captures the intricate weave of love and expectation that propels the hopes of one generation as it fades into another."
"Review" by , "Intelligent, emotionally complex, and immensely readable even while weighted with a deeper grief and despair. This is an astonishing accomplishment and the best book Cunningham has written."
"Review" by , "[A] work of genius so original it unfolds with a whiff of inevitability. You will find it hard to believe it did not exist before....Cunningham knows that beauty and sadness always come hand in hand, but he asks, do they have to be united by destruction?"
"Review" by , "[A] tour de force — a show of the astonishing variety of styles and voices of which he's capable....[A] book that's passionate in its weaving together of images and ideas, both startling the mind and touching the heart."
"Review" by , "[A] compelling read....Like Margaret Atwood and her chilling futuristic The Handmaid's Tale, Cunningham leaps into the realm of imagination. Yet because Whitman remains Cunningham's inspiration, the novelist offers a form of hope."
"Review" by , "Readers who want...The Hours all over again might be disappointed with this novel. It isn't seamless, and each story has a slightly fleeting feel, as though we are leaving one too soon to get to the next. But there's a quality of plain old pleasure here, too."
"Review" by , "Ultimately, this weird, confounding novel won me over (I still find myself thinking about it), and I've no doubt it'll be provoking all sorts of interesting conversations and arguments for months to come."
"Review" by , "The novel succeeds in spite of itself. It is, in three daring swoops, a poetic meditation on what it means to be human, a cautionary tale about the separation of progress from morality, and an eloquent call to rebellion against the powers that be."
"Review" by , "Provocative and disturbing....Cunningham crosses genres elegantly. The naturalism of late 19th-century fiction becomes the police thriller, which ends up as science fiction."
"Review" by , "[E]xquisitely written but bizarre and disjointed....As with...The Hours, Cunningham has set his three stories in three different eras, though here he stitches them together with far less finesse. (Grade: B)"
"Review" by , "[W]hen you close the book you won't be thinking about [its] minor flaws. Instead you'll be pondering Cunningham's big, haunting, beautiful vision of who we were, are and one day might be."
"Review" by , "While Specimen Days may have its flaws, it is clearly and often compellingly the work of a gifted storyteller with an ambitious mind and a lyrical writing style."
"Review" by , "Specimen Days contains multitudes, all right — Whitmanesque awe for life's genuine wonders and dismay at its horrors — but they haven't been fused into any cause for celebration."
"Review" by , "[R]eads like a clunky and precious literary exercise...that intermittently reveals glimpses of the author's storytelling talents, but too often obscures those gifts with self-important and ham-handed narrative pyrotechnics."
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by ,
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, a man, and a 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.

Michael Cunningham is the author of the bestselling novel The Hours, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. He also wrote A Home at the End of the World, which was also adapted for the screen, and Flesh and Blood. He lives in New York.
A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year

A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

 

In each section of Michael Cunningham's novel, his first since The Hours, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, a man, and a 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.

"It is his unique moral vision that successfully hinges three distinct narrative panels into a triptych of unified beauty. It's what raises his individual stories out of their genres into the glorious realm of art . . . Big, haunting, beautiful."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"These three novellas give loose rein to his playful genius for description and rollicking plot."—Ethan Canin, The Washington Post Book Review

"It is his unique moral vision that successfully hinges three distinct narrative panels into a triptych of unified beauty. It's what raises his individual stories out of their genres into the glorious realm of art . . . Big, haunting, beautiful."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[Specimen Days] is a love song of a novel, rich and melancholy and overflowing with smartness."—The Boston Globe

"In his first novel since The Hours, Michael Cunningham explores the unsettling effects of the industrial age. Splendid prose in a mesmerizing tale that tweaks our standard measures of time."—Chicago Tribune

"Clearly and often compellingly the work of a gifted storyteller with an ambitious mind and a lyrical writing style."—San Francisco Chronicle

"An extraordinary book, as ambitious as it is generous . . . I promise you fun, marvels, adventure, love stories, plus the uninhibited exercise of a great natural writer and an inspired historian. . . . This is a transforming book, the lovely, tattered record of our time and place, and of our wish to prevail."—David Thomson, The New York Observer

"Stunning . . . It is a rich reading experience, going from the brutal factory scenes to the thriller of the middle section, and then on to the brave new world of the final section. Cunningham has made something substantively and stylistically bold out of these stories, keeping his many fires stoked and pulling the parts together as a brilliant whole."—The Seattle Times

"Cunningham's experimentation with the genres brings his prose to new energy . . . [It] is exactly the kind of bold experiment that a novelist who takes his art seriously ought to make."—New York magazine

"Cunningham is a canny propagandist for the importance of imaginative literature . . . [He] crosses genres elegantly."—The Baltimore Sun

"An appealing and inventive fiction that indicates the range of as well as future possibilities for the novel . . . Cunningham's innovative triptych structure compels the reader, even after the novel is finished, to look for connections and patterns among the three strands . . . The intertextual dialogue between the three novellas and the sheer invention of the project should provide sufficient rewards for any reader."—The News & Observer (Raleigh)

"Michael Cunningham's new novel is extraordinary. It is strange and unusual and awkward to describe. It is also brilliant, as good as if not better than his stunning previous novel, The Hours . . . Specimen Days is a magnificent novel."—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Quite simply and even more impressively than in The Hours, Cunningham writes like an angel . . . Read this magical, spellbinding novel."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Cunninghams exquisite prose transcends the genres he has set for himself . . . It is easy to imagine [Whitman] beaming down his approval at Cunninghams strong-armed embrace of all that is America, as he beautifully articulates the frustrations of modern life . . . Like Whitman, Cunningham too sings America, in all its grime and glory . . . and Specimen Days is a book of wonders."—The Times Picayune (New Orleans)

"This is the most intriguing, stimulating, and artistically satisfying novel I've read in years . . . Cunningham takes material that in other hands might be titillating science fiction and masterfully turns it into heartfelt, poignant, and engaging human drama."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Cunningham's latest novel—actually, three novellas—is breathtaking . . . Impossible to put down, so dazzling is its prose, so complex are the ideas it wrestles with, and so generous is its vantage point . . . It is, in three daring swoops, a poetic mediation on what it means to be human, a cautionary tale about the separation of progress from morality, and an eloquent call to rebellion against the powers that be. Walt Whitman, in all of his bearded amplitude, must be smiling."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Brilliantly conceived, empathic, darkly humorous, and gorgeously rendered, Cunningham's galvanizing novel about the quest for justice and freedom, the parameters of the soul, the hunger for beauty, and the fluid interface between the natural and the engineered is a genuine literary event. Y.A.: The magnetic characters and edgy action will carry teens through."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (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."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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