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Publisher's Summary

In each section of Michael Cunningham's bold new novel, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, an older man, and a young woman. "In the Machine" is a ghost story which takes place at the height of the Industrial Revolution, as human beings confront the alienated realities of the new machine age. "The Children's Crusade", set in the early 21st century, plays with the conventions of the noir thriller as it tracks the pursuit of a terrorist band which 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.

Specimen Days is a genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in our greatest city, a work of surpassing power and beauty by one of the most original and daring writers at work today.

©2005 Mare Vaporum Corp. (P)2005 Audio Renaissance

Critic Reviews

"Engaging Walt Whitman as his muse, Cunningham weaves a captivating, strange, and extravagant novel of human progress and social decline....This is daring, memorable fiction." (Publishers Weekly) "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." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Matthew
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 07-26-05

Hit and miss.

Alan Cumming does a nice job of reading this (it's always nice to hear some people you recognize from film/tv). The three stories that make up the novel are linked by their association with the work of Walt Whitman, certain objects, and the names of characters. The first story is set in the past, and although it is effective at being a "ghost story" of sorts, it is too simple, wanting another act. The second story set in the modern day (and acting as a detective or mystery story) is the most effective as it brings the themes Whitman wrote about to bear on our time. The third story, a science fiction tale, is the least powerful. Cunningham goes a long way to set up an alien culture that is ultimately not as interesting as our own and the third story has the baggage of the reader's expectation that it will sum up the other two... yet it does not. I would still suggest that people listen to this book, but it does not fire on all cylinders as "The Hours" did.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

very insightful and well written

I read this book after seeing the hours and wanted to know more about this author. I could not make the connection between this book and The Hours but liked it very much. The three stories are great stading on their own but when taking together give a very deep perpsective on who where are as people and where are we from (or going). Highly recommended

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
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Terrific performance of a riveting story

Excellent book. Cunningham weaves together three stories into a single tapestry. Great Read or Listen.

  • Overall
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Depressing, scary,a turnoff to Walt Whitman

I managed to listen to two parts of this "tribute to Walt Whitman" It was so terribly disturbing and for the most part boring. I couldn't figure out what M Cunningham was trying to tell us. As it happens I have Leaves of Grass and I just finished rereading an article from Nat.Geographic Dec. 1994 on Walt Whitman, quoting many of his poems. Read the article, read the poetry and leave Mr. Cunningham to his own problems.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful