Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham (2005)
This novel tells three stories interrelated with Walt Whitman’s influence being woven in each. In “In the Machine,” 13-year-old Lucas spouts Whitman’s verse, faces grief and finds love only to be tormented by his dead brother’s voice in the machines in the Ironworks where he is employed during the Industrial Revolution of the 1920s in New York.
The next story, “The Children’s Crusade,” is in 21st century New York City with African American police detective Cat investigating a band of Whitman quoting children terrorizing the city. The final story is “Like Beauty,” dealing with the futuristic android with a Whitman poetry chip implanted in its circuits and its journey with Luke, a young boy, to find its maker. The novel is artistically constructed and showcases Cunningham’s flair for language and developed characters.