In 1999, the last time The New Yorker compiled a list of young writers destined to shake up the literary landscape, the names included Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, David Foster Wallace, Edwidge Danticat, Michael Chabon and George Saunders, all of whom subsequently made tremendous impressions on the world of arts and culture.
There’s no telling if the new crop of authors featured in 20 Under 40: Stories from The New Yorker will fare as well, but there’s great promise in most of their stories gathered here, which range in tone from the grim inevitability of Daniel Alarcón’s Second Lives to the manic hilarity pulsing throughout Gary Shteyngart’s Lenny Hearts Eunice. They’re a far-flung lot, these youngsters, and some aren’t quite so young (Chris Adrian teeters on the brink at 39). Most have made their homes in the United States, but the non-natives hail from Russia, Peru, Ethiopia, Nigeria, China, Latvia and Yugoslavia, a fact that gives the collection a decidedly international flavor.
Their stories are intense, personal, global. They can write. Consider this gem from Miami’s Karen Russell from The Dredgeman’s Revelation, a description of a cruel foster father named Auschenbliss: “Picture instead a slave driver who grew into the hard hiss of his name — a hog-necked man with a high Sunday collar, his eyes a colorless sizzle, like grease in a pan, half his face erased by the shadow of the dark barn.”
Click here to read the rest of my review of 20 Under 40.