Like other New Yorkers sweltering through a muggy summer, Karen Russell is sweating right now. "Nobody air-conditions,'' she says, "and you just go from one puddle of sweat to the other. Starbucks is like a ghost ship.''
But the Miami native and Coral Gables High grad is generating some heat of her own as one of The New Yorker's "20 under 40'' - writers making an impact on the literary world. The list - the magazine's first in more than a decade - will be published in the fiction double issue due out Monday. And judging from previous notables who made the cut - Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon - Russell, 28, is in good company.
"You know, the last time they did this in 1999, they put some of my favorite writers on the list, like George Saunders and Lorrie Moore, people who I adored,'' says the author of the critically acclaimed story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. "I learned so much about what fiction could be by having read their stuff. I know lists are capricious and subjective, but, wow, everybody on the list is so good, like Chris Adrian and Wells Tower. I was telling my mom this: Remember at Disney World where you could print up those dummy newspapers that have headlines like 'Neil Armstrong and Karen Russell land on the moon'? This feels goofy and incredible like that. It's very cool.''
"Thank God!'' she says, laughing. "God, that was a lot of pressure. I really underestimated by a good year and a half how long writing this book was going to take.''
The other writers on the 2010 New Yorker list are: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chris Adrian, Daniel Alarcon, David Bezmozgis, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Joshua Ferris, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nell
Freudenberger, Rivka Galchen, Nicole Krauss, Yiyun Li, Dinaw Mengestu, Philipp Meyer, C. E. Morgan, Tea Obreht, Z Z Packer, Salvatore Scibona, Gary Shteyngart and Wells Tower.