Specimen Days

by Michael Cunningham | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0374706247 Global Overview for this book
Registered by rebcamuse of Somerville, Massachusetts USA on 5/24/2022
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by rebcamuse from Somerville, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Note: this is for the second edition, which I could not get to come up on BC.
I think reading this book in spurts was a disservice. All three "stories" within the novel are interconnected, but it is hard to evaluate the novel as a whole because the three sections seem almost more like individual novellas. All three stories have three main characters (who share names, but shift their roles as protagonists/antagonists and their characterizations: Simon, Catherine/Cat/Catareen, Lucas/Luke) and Walt Whitman's poetry (and occasionally the poet himself) features in all three stories.

Of the three, "In the Machine" resonated the most, but I suspect that was because it was the first and I had no concept of the book as a whole. Cunningham vividly evokes the New York sidewalks and factories of yesteryear, with meaningful experiences of the underserved and outcast woven into a pseudo-ghost story.

The middle section, "The Children's Crusade," shifts to a more recent present, with a gritty protagonist whose choices, however, are less convincing than those of "In the Machine". The final offering, "Like Beauty," is an indulgent shift into sci-fi dystopia land, which ends up being a good read with an edge, but left me wanting the backstory that might have been included if it had been an entire novel.

Some have criticized the work as being too similar to Cunningham's The Hours in its use of Virginia Woolf. I can't comment on that, but I will say that the use of Whitman didn't always pack the same level of punch across the three stories. I found the Whitman quotes most compelling and interesting in the "The Children's Crusade" where as they seemed more of an annoyance in the other two.

It probably deserves a more concentrated re-read from me, because I'm sure I missed interconnections and allegories. On the other hand, I enjoyed reading each section as a self-contained story, even if Cunningham's genre experimentation was not consistently convincing

Released 1 mo ago (5/24/2022 UTC) at Little Free Library, 6 Spring Hill Terrace in Somerville, Massachusetts USA


Going to put this at the Little Free Library at 6 Spring Hill Terrace, unless it is full.

Journal Entry 3 by wingAnonymousFinderwing at Somerville, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, June 4, 2022
Michael Cunningham’s writing is mesmerizing and “Specimen Days” is no different from other books of his that I have read. Whitman’ s ecstatic poetry winds its way through all three sections of the book - the past, the present and the future unites all the misfit characters in their search for meaning and hope in lives derailed by the industrial revolution.

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