Thursday, June 3, 2010

20 Under 40

Eleven years ago, the New Yorker selected 20 young writers that it called "the future of American fiction."

They were: George Saunders, David Foster Wallace, Sherman Alexie, Rick Moody, A. M. Homes, Allegra Goodman, William T. Vollmann, Antonya Nelson, Chang-Rae Lee, Michael Chabon, Ethan Canin, Donald Antrim, Tony Earley, Jeffrey Eugenides, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Franzen, Edwidge Danticat, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nathan Englander, and Matthew Klam.

From this distance, the 1999 list looks pretty good. Klam is the only one who's fallen off the map. The others have gone on to do good stuff—I've particularly enjoyed works by Saunders, Wallace, Alexie, Nelson, Chabon, Earley, Franzen, and Lahiri.

Next week's issue will feature a new list:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; Chris Adrian, 39; Daniel Alarcón, 33; David Bezmozgis, 37; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38; Joshua Ferris, 35; Jonathan Safran Foer, 33; Nell Freudenberger, 35; Rivka Galchen, 34; Nicole Krauss, 35; Yiyun Li, 37; Dinaw Mengestu, 31; Philipp Meyer, 36; C. E. Morgan, 33; Téa Obreht, 24; ZZ Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.

I wonder how this list will look in eleven years. I think ZZ Packer and Wells Tower are both very good, though Packer hasn't published much since her debut collection of stories, which I'm teaching again this fall.

Of the writers on the list, Mengetsu, Meyer, Morgan, and Scibona are the only ones who haven't appeared before in the magazine.

Thinking back on other writers whose work I've enjoyed in The New Yorker, I'm a bit surprised at the absence of these writers from the list: Cristina Henriquez, Maile Meloy, Rebecca Curtis, and Uwem Akpan.


framiko said...

I've written some more thoughts on New Yorker fiction and this list in this piece at The Millions.

Tim said...

Check out this url: for some reviews of the stories.

framiko said...

Thanks, Tim. I'll check back in with your reviews after I've read the stories. (I'm waiting for my paper copy of the magazine.)

I was surprised by your negative review of Franzen's "Agreeable." I thought it was a pretty blistering piece of fiction. It made me want to read the forthcoming novel it's taken from.

Tim said...

I think as a short story, "Agreeable" doesn't work well. As part of a novel though, it could work.

framiko said...

I see what you mean. I read it only in the context of a previous excerpt from the same novel, so I found it pretty riveting. But as a stand-alone piece it would have felt odd.