"The story takes place perpetually in the current moment, the early twenty-first century, because I want to describe different features of the way we live now …"
I recently asked where Brooks got this ploy. Surely some other author has used this. So far, nobody has come up with an antecedent. However, a commenter points out a likely influence of Brooks' approach:
John Mansfield said...
"Life of Julia had this quality, the one about the woman who advanced from childhood to old age, assisted at each stage by the Obama administration."