The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 Fiction Special Will Save Fiction Again

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05/13/2010 12:36 PM |


America’s best young writers are waiting with baited breath for final word about the New Yorker‘s Summer Fiction double-issue, out June 7th, which will feature “20 Under 40,” a selection of new pieces from the best young American writers as selected by the most influential fiction section in America. So reports the Observer‘s Leon Neyfakh, which goes into admirable depth as to the history, logistics, and inside dope of such a project.

This is something of a sequel to the 1999 Summer Fiction Issue’s “Future of American Writing” section, which also picked 20 young-uns, with admirable success. That—along with a subsequent turn-of-the-century innovation, summer’s Debut Fiction Issue, which seems alas to have died out— was the brain-child of high-profile then-fiction editor Bill Buford (previously of Granta, famed for their own decennial Best Young British and Best Young American Novelist issues); his issue boasts, in retrospect, a batting average his deputy and now the current fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, would do well to emulate. (It might also be an opportunity for her to define her tenure, which has been equally defined by mediocre holdovers and chancy, poppy younger writers.)

This issue already seems to be working—people are gossiping about fiction, how delightful!—and I will likely review each of the 20 stories on this here blog come June.

For the record, after the jump, the 20 writers featured in Buford’s issue 11 years ago (cover pictured).

George Saunders, David Foster Wallace (“Asset,” from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men), Sherman Alexie (“The Toughest Indian in the World), Rick Moody, A.M. Homes, Allegra Goodman, William T. Vollmann, Antonya Nelson, Chang-rae Lee, Michael Chabon (“He is working on a novel, ‘Kavalier & Clay,’ which will come out next year”), Ethan Canin, Donld Antrim, Tony Earley, Jeffrey Eugenides (an early Middlesex iteration), Junot Diaz, Jonathan Franzen, Edwidge Danticat, Jhumpa Lahiri (“has just published her first book, a collection of stories entitled ‘Interpreter of Maladies'”), Nathan Englander, Matthew Klam (poor Matthew Klam).

A quick perusal of the digital edition reveals that then-fiction editor Bill Buford’s introduction to the issue was the lead piece in Talk of the Town, followed by Jane Mayer’s introduction to Karl Rove, the “brain” of then-presumptive presidential candidate George W. Bush. (The piece closes with this summation from Democratic strategist Paul Begala: “He’s too smart, setting aside the ethics, to do smear politics, just as a matter of strategy. Moreover, he’s a decent guy.”) Also, Run Lola Run opened that month.