The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list has been consuming the lit world for a while. Many deride it for being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Others say that there is no reason to praise these authors as they may have already written their best work at a young age, as many authors do. Others question why we should be celebrating young authors at all, instead of just focusing who the good authors are.
The new Millions list is notable for it’s focus on potential. There are some great authors in there who have yet to complete their great work, and many surely will. Judy Budnitz, for instance, has put out two of my favorite collections of short stories in recent memory (Flying Leap and Nice Big American Baby) and has really proven herself to be one of the more interesting young short story writers in America. She’s attempted the novel, with some success, but her best work is surely ahead of her.
Since we all love lists and love to hate lists I thought I’d suggest a few additions to their list recent lists, Between the three lists linked above most young authors are pretty well covered, but there is always someone who is missed. I’m definitely behind the inclusion of Judy Budnitz, Julie Orringer, and Jesse Ball on The Millions list – authors who may have been overlooked by The New Yorker. But here are a few others who deserve a little love in the discussion.
Marlon James. His first novel was great, but his second, The Book of Night Women showed something far different and was one of the best books to have come out last year.
Deb Olin Unferth. Vacation was a really magnificent novel (though to be honest I’m not 100% positive she’s under 40, couldn’t find it in a search and didn’t write to McSweeney’s at all about it).
Maybe throw in JC Hallman, who has put out a number of genre bending books that are fantastic. In particular the short story collection The Hospital for Bad Poets and his history of chess meets travelogue adventure The Chess Artist.
Peter Bognanni. He’s only got one novel, but I really loved The House of Tomorrow.
Neil Smith had a wonderful collection a few years back (which we reviewed) called Bang Crunch, and he’s currently working on a lengthy novel which has been excerpted here and there. (Though, to be fair, he is Canadia. But limiting lists to Americans seems silly – but that’s another discussion entirely.)
I’d also have to throw Ander Monson in there. He maybe doesn’t fit the bill as a novelist, but he seems capable of anything. Poetry collections, fantastic collections of non-fiction, and short story collections.Vanishing Point was phenomenal (I reviewed it for Bookslut here.)
Nick Harkaway was – although British – a notable person missing from the Brit list as well. He’s primarily a screen-writer, but his debut novel The Gone-Away World, aside from the Fight Club move at the end of the book, was really great. (And, yes, I do believe that the book overcame it’s tepid ending.)
That’s all I’ve got for now. Any other ideas? Send ‘em over. (Also, not 100% sure on JC Hallman. Couldn’t find anything definitive. Anyone have any idea?) dustin [at] indigestmag [dot] com