We contacted Jesse Browner, the author of Everything Happens Today and The Uncertain Hour, about curating a list of his favorite books where the action transpires in less than 24 hours. Both of his previous novels take place in less than twelve hours, so he definitely knows the challenges of using a limited time frame to bracket a story. “The writer must pay meticulous attention to structure and to the way time appears to flow through an active consciousness, which must be carefully controlled if it is not to become obsessive,” Browner explains. “In researching Ulysses, for instance, Joyce went back to the weather reports for Bloomsday so that a cloud that floats over several scenes behaves in strict obedience to the real-time wind conditions prevailing over Dublin on that date.”
“While few who write or read one-day novels will require such verisimilitude, they all understand the preciousness of every passing minute,” he continues. “More importantly, though, they all recognize that it is very easy, and very common, for each and every one of us to live out an entire lifetime of emotion, reflection and experience in a single day – or less.” Click through to check out Browner’s picks, and feel free to add to his list in the comments.
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Oh man — this novel will definitely divide people into those who enjoy reading multiple pages about why single, small items are placed in opaque bags in this day and age, or how plastic straws are inferior to paper ones, and those who simply don’t. Baker takes the time to wax philosophical in this novel about a man who rides an escalator back to his job after lunch. That’s it. It’s about the thoughts he has about his life as he returns to his mundane job, but if you go with it, you are guaranteed to be sucked into the narrative.