Specimen Days

  • by Michael Cunningham
  • Narrated by Alan Cumming
  • 9 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged 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

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.
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- Matthew

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
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- Michelle

Book Details

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