Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Armchair Traveler I Am!

I finished up my final Armchair Traveler challenge book on my vacation, and what a winner it was! Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham, is a wonderful book! Too bad it's really difficult to explain and do it any justice whatsoever, so I'm going to take a little help from the Amazon blurb:

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.

Yeah, that! I agree with all of it...even the effusive praise for Cunningham. It really was one of the most original books I read all year, and it never seemed forced. I was afraid it would...but it didn't.

So, with that, I wrap up the Armchair Traveler Challenge. To recap, I finished (click the link for my review)...

1. The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje (Italy)
2. Marie, Dancing, by Carolyn Meyer (Paris)
3. A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, by Anthony Bourdain (all over)
4. The Journal of Dora Damage, by Belinda Starling (London)
5. O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather (Nebraska)
6. Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham (New York)

Thanks so much to Lesley for a GREAT challenge! I had a wonderful time completing this one. Such a wonderful time, in fact, that it's hard to choose a favorite. If I had a gun to my head or a piece of chocolate in front of my face and was forced to pick ONE, it would probably be A Cook's Tour. Or The English Patient. No, no...O Pioneers! Bah!


  1. Congratulations on finishing the challenge! It really sounds like it was a great one!

  2. How do you read so darn fast? I received two gift certificates for Barnes & Noble for xmas and I bought The Life of Pi, Neuromancer (because I am researching cyberpunk), Pnin, and another copy of Diamond Age for Michael. However, I still have not read last year's xmas books. I am still stuck on The Shock Doctrine and some critical work on SF. Ugh, I wish I could read as fast as you.

  3. Thanks, Nymeth!

    Fem, I don't really read that fast. I get frustrated at the slowness of my reading, in fact. I guess the difference is having that pesky grad school stuff OVER. That frees up a lot of time. hehe Although, this having a job thing eats up a lot of time, too. Today I would love to do nothing but read Great Expectations, but I HAVE to plan for my classes that start next week. I'm SO BEHIND.

  4. Congratulations! It was a great challenge, although as usual, bad for my TBR.

    I'll have to look into some of these books. Will I ever get Dora Damage though? ;)

  5. LOL, I swear you will. Although I still haven't run across it. If you could see my house you'd understand. Between the traveling, the illness and the dead computer with all my addresses in it, it's been a bad December/beginning of January. Arrg!


  6. LOL I totally understand. The Christmas hurricane tore my house up! Not to mention the way-to-excited 4-year-old with her gazillon horses. I'm hoping to get it put back together this weekend.

  7. The Cunningham book sounds fascinating (like so many other books I've come across on this trip!). Congratulations on finishing and lots of reading fun this year - yes, work gets in the way terribly! :)

  8. Wahoo for finishing a challege!! The Cunningham book actually sounds really good. Not my usual fare, but still good.

    I read O' Pioneers this year too. I think Cather's writing is just amazing!!

  9. Ahh, yes. Another horsey Christmas, eh?? lol I hope everyone had fun!

    Seachanges, it certainly is fascinating! Thanks for stopping in.

    Stephanie, I think you'd like the Cunningham. It even has a sci-fi section in it which I think would be up your alley. And I can't wait to read more Cather. I'm trying to work my way through her stuff slowly so I can enjoy it for a while.

  10. Congratulations for completing the challenge! And guess what, you won the prize! Email me your address and I'll get it out in the mail to you: lesley[at]

    I'm impressed that two of your books made it to your best of 07 list - glad you enjoyed the challenge!

  11. YAYYY!!! Thanks so much, Lesley! This is the first time I've won anything online. *happy dance*

    Thank you for hosting a wonderful challenge!

  12. Congrats to crossing the finishing line. It's been a great journey isn't it?


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