Michael Cunningham’s latest book, “Specimen Days,” is really three novellas linked by several common characters—a young boy, an older man and a young woman—and the American poet Walt Whitman. Sound like an ambitious work? Well, Cunningham has done it before. His novel “The Hours,” for which he won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and Pulitzer Prize, seamlessly tied together the lives of three women and Virginia Woolf’s seminal work, “Mrs. Dalloway.” Cunningham’s earlier works include “Flesh and Blood” and “A Home at the End of the World,” which was made into a movie with a screenplay written by Cunningham himself. For his latest work, Cunningham borrowed the title of Whitman’s autobiography, and set his stories in New York—the first in the Industrial Revolution, the second in the present-day and the third 150 years in the future. Hear how Cunningham managed to do it, as he reads from “Specimen Days” at Penn Bookstore on May 3 at 7 p.m. For more information call 215-898-7595 or go to: www.upenn.edu/bookstore. — H.D.
Originally published on March 30, 2006