for writers and readers….

A is for ALL IN A DAY

letter a

We tend to think of a novel having a big landscape with a great sweep of characters and the story told over weeks, years, even centuries. But some writers have chosen to confine themselves to a very limited time frame.

I suppose the most famous example is Ulysses by James Joyce set on June 16th 1904 when the main character Leopold Bloom walks through his home city of Dublin

The BBC wrote a very useful cheats guide on the 100th anniversary. You can find it here.
The controversy over this novel is summed up by these two comments on the BBC site.

Ulysses is the greatest novel of the twentieth century…


Man goes for a walk around Dublin. Nothing happens.

Other ALL IN A DAY novels
Saturday by Ian McEwan
Set in London on Saturday, February 15, 2003 a day of anti-war protests. (I was there!)

A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Detailing the grinding brutality of a Soviet labour camp in the 1950s

The action of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens all happened in 24 hours, didn’t it? And that reminds me of the television series 24 Hours which just goes to show that a limited time scale does not have to mean short.

 While researching this post, I’ve discovered The Mezzzanine by Nicholson Baker. Although I haven’t read it yet, I am intrigued by a story where all the action happens on one escalator ride on one afternoon.

Any other books, films, television you can think of?

Just to finish off this very first post for the ABC challenge I’d like to thank the person who started it all.

Arlee Bird



19 comments on “A is for ALL IN A DAY

  1. Shilpa Garg
    April 1, 2013

    Wow!! What an impressive topic to kick start the challenge. Very interesting. I read somewhere that Morning, Noon and Night by Spalding Gray is also a book about a day.

  2. bridget whelan
    April 1, 2013

    Have heard of Spalding Gray or his/her book but I guess there’s a clue in the title. Thanks for letting me know.

  3. Mark
    April 1, 2013

    Sometimes, the simple things can also be the most complex when it comes to telling a story.

    • bridget whelan
      April 1, 2013

      Hi Mark

      Well, in life the simple often becomes the complicated so yes, I reckon you’re right the same applies to literature. Imposing a very confined time structure does seem simple but is a real challenge for the writer – characters can’t develop through a series of experiences. The ‘now’ of the book r story is the defining moment….which is why it is intriguing I guess

  4. Laura Marcella
    April 1, 2013

    Hello, Bridget! That’s really interesting. The short story “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin takes place all in–you guessed it–one hour. That’s a good writing challenge to try.

    Happy A to Z-ing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  5. bridget whelan
    April 1, 2013

    Oh I have heard of it but never read it – thanks for mentioning it. I’ll seek it out.

  6. John Wiswell
    April 2, 2013

    Baker’s The Mezzanine isn’t really a story, or if it is, it’s an incredibly thin one, thinner even than Ulysses, which has some agency and deliberation about it. It’s an excuse for Baker to write sundry observations about the city-world, about the mouth-feel of tuna salad and the functionality of escalators. It’s the sort of stuff you can only get out of literary fiction, and naturally won’t function the same for everyone. I enjoyed it, though I’d kill myself if all fiction had to be that way!

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      I’m not sure if you have sold it to me or not!
      Still, you enjoyed it even with so many reservations so I’m tempted tp see what it is like.

  7. Trisha
    April 2, 2013

    This is an intriguing topic and one I hadn’t really thought about before! Thanks for sharing this list of interesting-sounding stories – I must admit I haven’t read any of them!

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      Ah, there’s the ones we know about and mention…and then the ones we’ve actually read. the two are not the same!!!! Glad you like the subject.

  8. Trisha
    April 2, 2013

    Thanks for stopping by my blog too 🙂

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      Loved it – I wasn’t sure about getting involved with the A-Z challenge but it does allow you to get to know blogs and bloggers you wouldn’t normally have come into contact with, so I’m really pleased I did.

  9. Janice aka JPlovesCOTTON
    April 2, 2013

    All in a day for sure!

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      Thinking of playing around with the idea….I am but not sure how yet. Sometimes you just have to let ideas settle for awhile…

  10. Miriam
    April 2, 2013

    Interesting! I hadn’t thought about this before. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf takes place in a day.

    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      I should know that! I should really know that. I have a copy of Mrs Dalloway and never got far enough into it to discover what the time frame is. Live near VW’s house & visited last summer – glorious. Still didn’t tempt me to pick up the book though…

  11. Vikki Thompson
    April 2, 2013

    Great topic honey! 🙂

    Looking forward to the rest of your posts.


    • bridget whelan
      April 2, 2013

      Thanks Vikki. Just about to visit your blog and discover which “B” author you’re covering

  12. simonedavy
    April 6, 2013

    Breathing lessons by Anne Tyler is a car journey taken to and from a funeral in one day. She writes it with ease – so much detail, oh and conversation of course.

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