The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40″ Should Be Quite Familiar to Readers of the New Yorker

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06/03/2010 4:29 PM |

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Next week’s summer double issue of the New Yorker will, as previously discussed, feature for the second time in as many decades the work of 20 American writers under 40 adjudged to be the (sufficiently early-blooming) leading literary lights of their generation.

Since these writers don’t exactly come out of nowhere, and since the New Yorker is the highest-profile curator of American fiction in general, the list, just released, shouldn’t be too surprising. You ready?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (age 32)
Chris Adrian (39)
Daniel Alarcon (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)
Tea Obreht (24)
ZZ Packer (37)
Karen Russell (28)
Salvatore Scibona (35)
Gary Shteyngart (37)
Wells Tower (37)

As a reader of the New Yorker‘s fiction section—and someone who remembers Granta‘s Best Young American Novelists list of a few years ago—I certainly can’t claim to find the list very surprising. It’s unlikely that they would have dipped into the slushpile for this one, after all. The omissions of Safran Foer, Krauss or Shteyngart would have raised eyebrows based on their popularity, and I’ve liked what I’ve previously read of Adichie, Adrian, Alarcon and Bynum (in the New Yorker and elsewhere). It’s a pretty good list, though I’m sure more devoted writers of the independent press and smaller journals could point me towards work as good or better, some of it almost certainly written by Benjamin Percy. But it was ever thus.

Here at the L, we’ve interviewed the committed Brooklynites Galchen and Ferris.

From the small-press selections, C.E. Morgan and Salvatore Scibona have opened their souls to our Questionnaire for Writer Types. We’ve also reviewed Wells Tower, quite positively, and the two twentysomethings on the list, Karen Russell and Tea Obreht, have predictably been the subjects of our naked, bitter envy.

So, who wuz robbed?