Specimen Days

  • by Michael Cunningham
  • Narrated by Alan Cumming
  • 4 hrs and 49 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good Read

I've just finished "Specimen Days," and have to say it's a book I will definately read again someday. In this book, Cunningham takes the reader through three different and distinct periods in American "history" starting just at the dawn of the industrial revolution, making a stop in modern-day New York, and finally ending in a post-apocalyptic / dystopic version of our distant future.

What struck me most while listening to this book, is that the "flavor" of each story is distinct, even though many elements, including character's names, are shared between the stories, resonating Whitman's perception of the interconnectedness and cyclical nature of existence.

Thankfully, I went ahead and purchased this audiobook despite a critique I read of this book just before it was released. This particular critic labeled "Specimen Days" as a novel that "doesn't quite work." I have to disagree. "Specimen Days" works quite well, indeed.

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- Jesse sanders

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-17-2005
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio