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“14 Days”: Lockdown Tales by 36 Authors

by | Mar 4, 2024 | News

 

Collectively written by 36 American and Canadian authors whose work spans a variety of literary genres, “Fourteen Days” follows a cast of characters trapped in their New York apartment building in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, and during — as its title suggests — 14 days of lockdown.

The twist lies in that each character’s story has been penned by a different writer, and their identities are only revealed after the story ends. This unorthodox approach provides tremendous narrative momentum, leaving readers guessing which famous literary figure — including John Grisham, Celeste Ng, Diana Gabaldon, R. L. Stine and of course, Atwood herself, to name just a few — wrote what.

Douglas Preston, who co-edited the book with Atwood, came up with its concept, and was also tasked with writing the “frame” narrative, a literary technique for the telling of stories within a story. Tying the book together, then, is Preston’s character Yessie, the superintendent of the apartment building that the others call home. She learns about the residents from a notebook her predecessor left behind that is filled with his nicknames for them, as well as their personal histories and relationships.

Frame narratives have a storied history in literature, used in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” “One Thousand and One Nights” and “The Decameron,” Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century tale of a group of young Florentine nobles who flee their plague-ravaged city and tell each other stories to pass the time.

Tess Gerritsen, who normally writes romance and thriller books, contributed a piece — warning: spoiler incoming — about a nun who seemingly always knows when a patient is going to die, inspired a real-life figure from a hospital she used to work at.

More broadly, the stories range from love stories to ghost stories, anecdotes grounded in realism to ones seemingly far-fetched and artfully fabricated, weaving together a portrait of their newly-formed community while illuminating a shard of each storyteller’s distinct self.

 

 

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