Thursday, June 3, 2010

The New Yorker's Top 20 Under 40 -- That's BULLSH*T or IS IT? You Decide . . .

I've decided to complain / lament the fact that I wasn't even considered for The New Yorker's Top 20 writers under 40. And no, friends and fans, you can be sure I was not considered. Tut-tut, it's true. And so nothing more needs be complained about and lamented with regard to my not even maybe being talked about apropos of possibly being considered for consideration. What's done is done, and I only hope The New Yorker can live with its mistake.

But hahnestly,
I'm surprised by how little I take issue with those listed. GAWKER tongue-in-cheekly offers advice for how an author who didn't make the cut might complain about it, which complaining as I've shown is always a viable option. But eh, what's good is good. It comes down to taste, true. Anyone who reads me regularly (thanks, you mighty handful, you) knows I've become very fond of Adam Levin and Patrick Somerville / would definitely have included those two on my own list. But well, let's take a look (pulled from "Book Fox"):

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32
  • Chris Adrian, 39
  • Daniel Alarcón, 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
  • Téa Obreht, 24
  • Z Z Packer, 37
  • Karen Russell, 28
  • Salvatore Scibona, 35
  • Gary Shteyngart, 37
  • Wells Tower, 37

  • Ok, so, yes, I've at least heard of nearly all of them. So that's one thing to start with. I especially won't argue with the inclusion of Joshua Ferris or Chris Adrian or Wells Tower or Jonathan Safran Foer or Gary Shteyngart or Phillipp Meyer or Z Z Packer, all of whose work I've encountered in one form or another and, to lesser or greater extent, found merit-worthy. So I've got nothing bad to say about those specifically named in the naming of The New Yorker's 20 great authors under 40.

    But the best negative criticism I've heard made regarding any of this, at least so far, comes from a GAWKER commenter, DorothyBarker, who says:

    Any "____" under "____" chaps my ass (namely cause I'm never on them...). But seriously, what is the point, in the world of fiction? Does being young(er) make you better? Obviously: no. So it's to draw attention to them? Why? Most of these folks are doing jusssfine; indeed, the very fact that they're 'under 40' probably means their early works were successful, well reviewed, etc. And if you get off on the right foot, particularly in the literary're pretty good to go. You become one of those literary darlings, and then that takes on a certain momentum, and you get the NYTimes review slots, and get on Charlie Rose and Style Section "At Home With..." features in your Park Slope neighborhood, and on and on. While other great writers toil away; successful, but never quite getting that foothold. Instead, why not a "20 Writers we've never talked about but you should read" list? Because seriously, if William Boyd doesn't start getting some love soon...I'm not kidding. Read some William Boyd. You won't be sorry. (Blue Afternoon or Any Human Heart for starters; you'll thank me.)

    Don't even get me started on writers who can't even get major publication; we all know they're out there. Maybe the New Yorker should've tried to MAKE some writers, not just tell us about ones who've already made it. How about THAT?
    It's true, pretty much. Not that I blame The New Yorker for wanting to showcase young talent, but it's no surprise that all the writers listed with the exception of Philipp Meyer, C.E. Morgan, Salvatore Scibona and Dinaw Mengestu (although even these four have gotten at least a write-up of some kind in "Books Briefly Noted" or on The New Yorker blog "The Book Bench" -- which I proved with a quick search of the ol' New Yorker archive, I did) have to some extent, usually with a fiction entry (in Safran Foer's case, lengthy repeat mention of his latest non-fiction book, "Eating Animals."), already been printed in The New Yorker, and WAHOO! They will be again, as reward for making the list!

    If there's any argument for the prominence of an incestuous world of literary exclusivity, this would probably indeed be it. But then, what's that say? You can look at it from a variety of standpoints, although most probably one of these two: siding with The New Yorker -- i.e. it's their prerogative who and how they want to publish, and it makes no difference why they deem a given author to be of note -- the whole process is inherently subjective, anyway.

    Or siding with the spurned outsider a la DorothyBarker's description -- i.e. if The New Yorker truly wants to make a statement then they should be less thrilled about what Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker fiction editor, told The New York Times was the "rewarding accident" of an even number of men and women making the cut, and focus more on the challenges that authors of less renown face with respect to Treisman's ancillary point attached to the "rewarding accident," which was, "in terms of what it says about equal opportunity on the literary playing field these days." Yes, men and women have got more parity in terms of being published along gender lines, but as the inclusion of literary heavyweights like Safran Foer, Tower and Ferris invariably suggests, there's still an oligarchy here, a perceived creme-de-la-creme when you get down to it, whether they're deserving or no.

    But then repeating what The New Yorker should say, it's all subjective, anyway, and for them to decide, duh. Quit with the sour grapes and make a list of your own about great writers under 20. List yourself for all they care.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: Meanwhile, I'll probably do just what I always do and scour this list for writers I enjoy reading. Thanks, The New Yorker! Thanks a million!

    No comments:

    Post a Comment