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Specimen Days: A Novel

by

Specimen Days: A Novel Cover

 

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:

"[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

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:

"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:

"[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:

"[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:

"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:

"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:

"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:

"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:

"[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:

"[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] 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:

"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)

Synopsis:

The same group of characters — a young boy, an older man, and a young woman — are present in each historical period of this genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in New York. The novel provides a meditation on the direction and meaning of America's destiny.

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, 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.

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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374299620
Author:
Cunningham, Michael
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Author:
Cumming, Alan
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
New york (n.y.)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
June 7, 2005
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
4 cds, 5 hours
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » Men's Fiction

Specimen Days: A Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374299620 Reviews:
"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 , "[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."
"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 , "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 , "[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 , "[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 , "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 , "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 , "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 , "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 , "[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 , "[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] 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 , "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."
"Synopsis" by , The same group of characters — a young boy, an older man, and a young woman — are present in each historical period of this genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in New York. The novel provides a meditation on the direction and meaning of America's destiny.
"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, 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.

"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.

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