Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Yorker Announces This Year's "20 Under 40"

This week, the New Yorker announced its list of 20-authors-to-watch-under-40, something the magazine hasn't done in over a decade. The last time they published their "20 Under 40" though, it included international bestsellers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz, as well as authors like Michael Chabon and David Foster Wallace.

Naturally, the current list--recreated by The New York Times--is a little less recognizable...for now:

There are 10 women and 10 men, satirists and modernists, from Miami and Ethiopia and Peru and Chicago. And none of them were born before 1970.

The New Yorker has chosen its “20 Under 40” list of fiction writers worth watching, a group assembled by the magazine’s editors in a lengthy, secretive process that has provoked considerable anxiety among young literary types. The list will be published in the double fiction issue of The New Yorker that arrives on newsstands Monday. All of the writers were told two weeks ago that they had made the cut.

They are 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; Z Z Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.


Beyond their age, the writers on the list have nothing in common, said David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker.

“If they had too much in common, it would be really boring,” he said in an interview. “This is not an aesthetic grouping. The group is a group of promise, enormous promise. There are people in there that are very conventional in their narrative approach, and there are people who have a big emphasis on voice. There are people who are in some way bringing you the news from another culture.”

It is no secret that publishing these kinds of lists can be tricky. Whatever the intention, they sometimes resemble a publicity stunt. The age cutoff, whether 25 or 35 or 40, can feel capricious. After a list is made public, there is the inevitable sniping that some writers on it were too famous to have been included and that others were unfairly excluded.


Bill Buford, a former fiction editor at The New Yorker who led the compilation of the list in 1999, said he had no regrets about who was chosen for it.

“By gathering up these writers and gathering them up with some authority and some panache, and saying, with all the stuff that’s out there, you’re saying, here are 20 you should pay attention to,” Mr. Buford said, “it’s a way of getting those authors to a bigger audience.”

Read the full article HERE

I've gotta say I agree with Mr. Buford. These lists aren't saying these are the only promising authors out there. Just like any list of its kind--10 summer movies to watch, top 10 beach reads, etc. etc.--it's clearly subjective and not all-inclusive.

I personally like these lists. It's a great way to discover new artists of all kinds and to give someone whose talent really moves you some recognition. That's all. It's not meant as a slight to those who didn't make the list, though I can, of course, understand that it may feel that way to the artist in question. But just as we all have to sometimes, you gotta just let it roll off your back and realize it's in no way a criticism. Besides, there is likely someone out there singing your praises as you cry in the corner.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait for the issue to come out--not because they're actually THE best, but because I imagine they will all be pretty damn good. : )