Specimen Days

Specimen Days

A Novel

Book - 2005
Average Rating:
Rate this:

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.

Publisher: New York, NY : Farrar, Straus and Giroux : 2005
ISBN: 9780374299620
Branch Call Number: FIC Cunn
Characteristics: 308p


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 22, 2013

Like Cunningham’s award winning novel The Hours, this tale features three characters: a malformed Whitman-quoting boy, a disillusioned woman, and a generous young man. The trio appears in each section of this triptych, one part historical fiction, one part post 9/11 police thriller, and one part futurist science fiction. Walt Whitman plays the roles of muse, prophet, and a character in this inventive novel about humanity, progress, nature and social decline.

Dec 20, 2011

This a fantastic book. It only makes sense if you put some time and thought into it, though, but trust me--it makes so much sense. You need to leave some time to digest because so many details connect after a bit of thought.
The novel concludes on a hopeful note. My interpretation of Cunningham's work is that, in the future, emotional and perceptual boundaries will no longer exist, taking away the problems that come with these boundaries, such as emotional detachment/lack of emotional expression and racism. Really, I think this book is about what it means to be human (is it the soul?), and how our concept of humanity may hopefully evolve. It's such a good book--read it!!!

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Dec 20, 2011

kendra88 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Find it at NWPL

To Top