Someday he may write for movies (The Minute of Living Dangerously), TV (Minutes of Our Lives) or theater (The Children’s Minute). But for now, Dan Hurley is sticking with “one-minute novels,” which he composes while perched on a director’s chair along Chicago’s bustling North Michigan Avenue. One recent afternoon Hurley, 26, attracted the attention of a passing couple, asked them a few questions, then banged out his 800th-or-so novel, Maria From Russia With Love:
“Vincent was building a construction project in Russia. Just another American working hard at building buildings. Then he saw the most beautiful construction job he had ever seen in any country. Her name was Maria. There had never been another building like her…”
If Hurley’s prose is, well, prosaic, his customers don’t seem to notice. In 13 months as a sidewalk Shakespeare, he has managed to earn as much as $100 a day; many patrons happily exceed his “suggested donation” of $2. Though Hurley bills himself as the world’s only “60-second novelist,” he sometimes labors on each one-page “book” for up to three minutes. “They have to be worth the money,” he says.
Hurley didn’t always write so quickly. While working as an editor for American Bar Association publications (a job he just quit), Hurley woke at 5 each morning to complete a novel called Johnnie Hero: A Comic Book Tragedy. But when he couldn’t interest a publisher in the 168-page manuscript, he went outdoors, hoping to attract attention to his writing.
He has. Now Hurley is planning to publish a book of his 60-second novels. In March he tried “performance writing” in the lobby of Chicago’s Art Institute, and this summer he will compose in a department store window as a promotion. He still hopes to find a publisher for Johnnie Hero. Even if that never happens, Hurley says he will be content. “Going out and writing on the street touches people’s lives,” he says. “I feel very fulfilled.”