Gene Weingarten finds the extraordinary in ‘One Day’ - GulfToday

Gene Weingarten finds the extraordinary in ‘One Day’


“One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America” by Gene Weingarten. TNS

Saleha Irfan, Senior Sub-Editor/Reporter

Is there such a thing as an ordinary day in life? Author Gene Weingarten set out to answer this very question.

Weingarten has had a very interesting life. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his stint as a “Washington Post” feature writer.

As an editor, he once sent four reporters off in four different directions with specific instructions: They must bring back a good story but not go further than seven blocks to find it.

Another time, he told five writers to each hammer a nail into a phone book and write a profile of whoever’s name was where the nail stopped.

Why go through all this trouble just for an article?

Because Weingarten believes that a good reporter should be able to find a story anywhere.

Which is why he proceeded to test this theory in his latest book, “One Day.”

On New Year’s Day 2013, Weingarten asked three strangers to draw a day, month, and year from a hat.

That day, chosen completely at random, turned out to be a Sunday, Dec.28, 1986.

Now by any conventional means, it seems to be a most ordinary day but to Weingarten, it most definitely wasn’t.

And so he spent the next six years trying to prove just that.

Weingarten gathered reports on the events of that day, finding “embedded in microcosm all of the grand themes in what hacks and academics tend to call The Human Experience,” as he notes in the introduction.

Author Gene Weingarten. TNS

His book is a collection of about 20 stories drawn from that day and it takes a good look at The Human Experience. All the stories from that one day in history remind us of the preciousness of life in everyday moments.

Weingarten conducted more than 500 interviews over the course of five years, digging in the lives of dozens of people. The resulting stories range from sweet and tragic to horrifying, regretful and hopeful.

There were tragedies that turned into triumph and some that remained tragic. Many of these events had never made the news; they were sagas in the lives of private people, and they were compelling.

From coast to coast, from hospital operating rooms to lonely woodlands, Weingarten captured the thoughts, emotions and motivations of the events of that day and the people who lived them.

And though there is no theme tying his stories together, Weingarten asks and answers the question of whether our daily challenges of being human, and the experiences that come with it, are ordinary.

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