About this title:
One of the most anticipated novels of 2005 from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours. Specimen Days is three linked visionary narratives about the relationship between man and machine. The first narrative, a ghost story set at the height of the Industrial Revolution, tells the story of man-eating machines. An ecstatic boy, barely embodied in the physical world, speaks in the voice of the great visionary poet Walt Whitman. He works at an oppressive factory connected to the making of a mysterious substance with some universal function and on which the world's economy somehow depends. The slight boy can barely operate the massive machine which speaks to him in the voice of his devoured brother. A woman who was to have married the brother is now the object of obsessive interest by the boy. In a city in which all are mastered by the machine, the boy is convinced that the woman must be saved before she too is devoured. This grisly but ultimately transformative story establishes three main characters who will appear, re-incarnated, in the other two sections of this startling modern novel. The boy, the man and the woman are each in search of some sort of transcendence as is made manifest by the recurrence of the words of Whitman ('It avails not, neither distance nor place...I am with you, and know how it is'). In part two, a noir thriller set in the early years of our current century, the city is at threat from maniacal bombers, while the third and last part plays with the sci-fi genre, taking our characters centuries into the future. The man who was devoured by a machine in part one is now literally a machine - a robot who becomes fully human before our eyes. The woman is a refugee from another part of the universe, a warrior in her native land but a servant on this planet. The boy leaves the earth at the novel's close in search of a new-found land. Specimen Days is a genre bending, haunting ode to life itself - a work of surpassing power and beauty by one of the most original and daring writers at work today.
About the Author:
Book Description: 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.
| More from Michael Cunningham |
A Home at the End of the World
Flesh and Blood
The Portable Walt Whitman
Specimen Days & Collect
Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose
Michael Cunningham was raised in Los Angeles and now lives in New York. He is the author of three previous novels including the Pulitzer Prize winning The Hours. His work has been published in the New Yorker and Best American Short Stories 1989.
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