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Specimen Days

A Novel

Michael Cunningham

Picador

A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year

 
In each section of Michael Cunningham's novel, his first since The Hours, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, a man, and a 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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter One
Walt said that the dead turned into grass, but there was no grass where they'd buried Simon. He was with the other Irish on the far side of the river, where it was only dirt and gravel and names on stones.
 
Catherine believed Simon had gone to heaven. She had a locket with his picture and a bit of his hair inside.
 
"Heaven's the place for him," she said. "He was too good for this world." She looked uncertainly out the parlor window and into the street, as if she expected a glittering carriage to wheel along with Simon on board, serene in his heedless milk-white
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  • Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Michael Cunningham's novel Specimen Days, narrated by Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming. In each section of Michael Cunningham's bold novel, his first since the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hours, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, a man, and a 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.

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REVIEWS

Praise for Specimen Days

"Specimen Days offers just about every kind of literary pleasure, and all of them in abundance: suspense, hilarity, invention, romance, and passage after passage of breathtaking prose."--Ethan Canin, The Washington Post

"Michael Cunningham has taken a quantum leap imaginatively, stylistically, and thematically in this bewitching novel of a metamorphosing New York City. . . . Brilliantly conceived, empathic, darkly humorous, and gorgeously rendered, Cunningham's galvanizing novel . . . is a genuine literary event."--Booklist (starred review)

"An extraordinary book, as ambitious as it is generous . . . I promise you fun, marvels, adventure, love stories, plus the uninhibited exercise of a great natural writer and an inspired historian. . . . This is a transforming book, the lovely, tattered record of our time and place, and of our wish to prevail."--David Thomson, The New York Observer

"[Specimen Days] is a love song of a novel, rich and melancholy and overflowing with smartness."--The Boston Globe

"Another dazzling tour de force."--Library Journal

"An astonishing accomplishment and the best book Cunningham has written."--O magazine

"One of the most luminous and penetrating novels to appear this year."--The Oregonian (Portland)

"It is his unique moral vision that successfully hinges three distinct narrative panels into a triptych of unified beauty. It's what raises his individual stories out of their genres into the glorious realm of art . . . Big, haunting, beautiful."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[A] tour de force."--People****

"Exquisitely written."--Entertainment Weekly

"Stunning . . . It is a rich reading experience, going from the brutal factory scenes to the thriller of the middle section, and then on to the brave new world of the final section. Cunningham has made something substantively and stylistically bold out of these stories, keeping his many fires stoked and pulling the parts together as a brilliant whole."--The Seattle Times

"Quite simply and even more impressively than in The Hours, Cunningham writes like an angel. . . . Read this magical, spellbinding novel."--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Like Whitman, Cunningham too sings America, in all its grime and glory . . . and Specimen Days is a book of wonders."--The Times Picayune (New Orleans)

"Line by line, page by page, one of the most beautifully executed experiments of the decade."--NPR's All Things Considered

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Michael Cunningham

  • Michael Cunningham is the author of the bestselling novel The Hours, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, A Home at the End of the World, also adapted for the screen, and Flesh and Blood, all published by FSG. He lives in New York.
  • Michael Cunningham © Richard Phibbs
    Michael Cunningham
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Available Formats and Book Details

Specimen Days

A Novel

Michael Cunningham

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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