A review of this — 4 years ago
Cunningham is one of those rare gifted writers that can take pulpy genres and make them into literature. The book is divided into three sections: past (historical fiction), present (pychological crime thriller), and future (sci-fi). Each section recycles the same three characters and Whitman’s poetry is always present in some form. Each character brings certain resonances from the past story into the current one making it richly layered.
Besides linking the stories together by the characters, Whitman’s poetry also provides a narrative thread. Whitman’s poetry is allowed to shine through the short snippets Cunningham provides yet he places them in a context that questions Whitman’s view of America. While Whitman’s poetry embraced all aspects of the American landscape (even its ugly side), this Whitmanesque embrace is questioned when Cunningham places it alongside the Industrial Revolution and terrorism in modern New York. In the futuristic story violence becomes a commodity which leads you to ask: should we really embrace everything America has to offer? You begin to question the beauty Whitman’s presents in his poetry when its placed in a modern context such as terrorism but that’s the beauty of Cunningham’s writing. The ending provides no clear answer but the questions Cunningham makes you ask yourself is the whole point of the journey.