Monday, July 30, 2007

Specimen Days

I did a lot of reading on Friday and Saturday. I finished Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days, which was really quite good. It's a novel in three parts, all set in NYC; the first part is historical fiction set in the late 1800's, the second part is modern, and the third part is set in the future. All are loosely tied to Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" in some way. He also seems to recycle characters throughout the three eras. They aren't the same people, but their names are the same and the general feel of the character remains the same. Very well done.

I especially liked the way he tied in some of Whitman's philosophies, and had the characters illustrate his ideas. One of the main ideas was that one returns to nature when one dies and experiences the joy of being one with the world, which is a relief from the pain of living. The epiphanies the characters have are very beautiful and touching. Each of the characters also has to make a difficult decision at some point, which has both good and bad consequences, very bittersweet decisions. Lots of emotion in this book.

It was recommended to me by a friend; I don't remember all he told me about it at the time, but I can see now why he was so enthusiastic about it. I wish I could remember now what he said. I will definitely have to have a conversation about it with him soon.

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