「Specimen Days」

Specimen Days/Michael Cunningham (著)
外貨参考価格: $25.00
価格: ¥2,475 (税込)
OFF: ¥437 (15%)
ハードカバー: 308 p ; 出版社: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) ; ISBN: 0374299625 ; (2005/06/01)
From Newsweek
Disappointing ‘Days’

Michael Cunningham’s latest book, “Specimen Days” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25) is the kind of novel that I wish was much better than it actually is. In Cunningham's famed “The Hours,” Virginia Woolf served as inspiration, here he turns to Walt Whitman. The novel is stylistically similar to “The Hours” in that it focuses on three characters and three different storylines.

The book is divided into three separate novellas, each of which takes place during a different era in New York City and each of which features characters named Simon, Catherine and Luke (or slight variations on those names). Each story is also told in a different genre. The first, “In the Machine,” is a ghost story from the late 1800s, telling of a boy who’s convinced that his brother's ghost has somehow gotten inside the machine that killed him. The second, “The Children’s Crusade,” is a detective story set in post-Sept. 11 New York, telling of a police psychologist who tries to track down a would-be bomber. The final novella, “Like Beauty,” is a sci-fi tale set in a future time where New York has become a strange theme park, where guests can pay to experience a real mugging. The Simon in this story is an artificial human who travels with an alien woman (Catereen) to try and find his maker.

This being Cunningham, the writing and characters are wonderful throughout, but he puts so many formulaic constraints on the stories that they never quite come together. Walt Whitman seems forced into each novel — the bomber quotes Whitman, the artificial human quotes Whitman — whereas in “The Hours,” Virginia Woolf seemed organic to the story.

Thematically, the novellas — appropriately enough in this post Sept. 11-age — are all about the life’s transitory nature and its preciousness, and how each character has the power to change lives — not always for the better. Cunningham is a tremendous writer. Next time, perhaps he’ll leave the classic author on the shelf and let his own words do the talking.