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!