The recent 20 Under 40 list composed by The New Yorker contains twenty authors, who in the estimation of the staff of The New Yorker, are “fiction writers who. . . are, or will be, key to their generation.” While it is not the intent of our response to disparage the writers chosen, it is important to point out the flaws of any list which purports to represent an entire body of achievement while having excluded from the very voting process the majority of individuals who work daily with the material under review. As we - the independent publishers, agents, bloggers and reviewers, in total a majority of people working in literary fiction today - were not consulted by The New Yorker in the composition of their list, we feel it is essential to respond to The New Yorker's list with a complementary list of our own, offering another twenty writers worth watching, this time drawn not from a singularly New York view of publishing but from the wider world of the American independent presses.
The we referenced here is made up of
nearly 100 independent publishers, agents, editors, bloggers and reviewers. As
the staff of The New Yorker went
to the sources they knew best when creating their list, and most of the
authors they reviewed have either been published in The New Yorker or with major
In compiling our list, we invited our voters to name four authors for consideration, splitting their votes between two that are associated with their publishing interests and two they favor independently. The only other parameters given to the voters were that these writers needed to be North American, and had to have published at least one book with an independent publishing house. (Unlike The New Yorker's list, there were no age restrictions, so the authors did not have to be under forty.) We then compiled the votes, tallied the score, and had a second round of votes for those authors who made the first cut. Through this purely democratic process, we have compiled a list of twenty authors we find representative of the best talents at work in literary fiction today, including five authors who made the final list on the strength of first round of voting alone. That list, including bios of the authors, can be found below this letter.
no point do we imagine that the twenty writers who have made our list are the
exclusive voice of literary fiction. Our process, however fair it was
intended to be, remains at a certain level subjective. For instance, as
we were looking for authors who have published at least one full book with an
independent press, we did not consult editors at literary journals, even though
such editors would certainly have had their own keen insights and opinions on emerging
writers. In the end, for every writer who made the final twenty, there
are dozens of other talented authors worthy of consideration at both the
independent and the corporate publishers, including such writers as Allison Amend, Chris Bachelder,
Jonathan Baumbach, John Brandon, Lucy Corin, Elizabeth Crane, Lydia
Davis, John Domini, Brian Evenson, Percival Everett, Jonathan Evison,
Steven Gillis, Renee Gladman, Rachel B.
Glaser, Carol Guess, Paul Harding, Roy Kesey, Victor LaValle, Sam Lipsyte,
Emily St. John Mandel, Joseph Mattson, Debra Monroe, Antonya
Nelson, Julie Orringer, Jeff Parker, Vanessa Place, Padgett Powell, Dawn
Raffel, Emma Straub, Alex Taylor, Christian Tebordo, Deb Olin Unferth, Josh
Weil, Colson Whitehead, and Paul Yoon, along with many
others who were recognized in the early voting.
is obviously much to praise about the work that is published by
thank you for taking the time to review our list, and we hope you will consider
reading many of the listed authors, who we truly believe are among the best at
Dan Wickett, co-founder, executive director, Dzanc Books
Steven Gillis co-founder, publisher, Dzanc Books
20 Writers Worth Watching*
Matt Bell is the author of How They Were Found, forthcoming from Keyhole Press in October 2010, as well as three chapbooks, Wolf Parts (Keyhole Press), The Collectors (Caketrain Press), and How the Broken Lead the Blind (Willows Wept Press). His fiction has been selected for inclusion in leading anthologies such as Best American Mystery Stories 2010 and Best American Fantasy 2. He is the editor of The Collagist and the Best of the Web anthology series.
Blake Butler has published the novella Ever (Calamari Press), the short story collection Scorch Atlas (Featherproof Books), and has a novel (2011) and work of non-fiction (2012) forthcoming from Harper Perennial. He is the editor of HTML Giant: the Internet Literature Magazine Blog of the Future, Lamination Colony, co-edits No Colony, and co-publisher of Year of the Liquidator Books.
M. Allen Cunningham has published two novels, The Green Age of Asher Witherow (Unbridled Books), and Lost Son (Unbridled Books). Both were BookSense Selections and The Green Age of Asher Witherow was a BookSense Book of the Year finalist as well.
Amelia Gray is
the author of AM/PM (Featherproof
Books). Her book Museum of the Weird is
coming out in September 2010 through FC2. She co-directs the Five
Things series in
Samantha Hunt has published two novels, The Seas (MacAdam/Cage) and The Invention of Everything Else (Houghton Mifflin). The Invention of Everything Else was a finalist for the Orange Prize.
Jamie Iredell has
published the chapbook
Kelly Link is the author of three collections of short stories, Stranger Things Happen (Small Beer Press), Magic for Beginners (Small Beer Press), and Pretty Monsters (Viking). Her short stories have won three Nebulas, a Hugo, and a World Fantasy Award. She co-runs Small Beer Press with her husband.
Norman Lock is the author of The King of Sweden (Ravenna Press), Shadowplay (Ellipsis Press), A History of the Imagination (FC2), ‘The Book of Supplemental Diagrams’ for Marco Knauff’s Universe (Ravenna Press), The Long Rowing Unto Morning (Ravenna Press), Two Plays for Radio (Triple Press), and–writing as George Belden–Land of the Snow Men (from Calamari Press and in Japanese from Kawade Shobo).
Gary Lutz is
a professor of English and composition at the
Sarah Manguso is the author of the memoir The Two Kinds of Decay (2008), published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Granta Books, and of the story collection Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape (2007), included in McSweeney's One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Small Box. Her poetry collections are Siste Viator (2006) and The Captain Lands in Paradise (2002).
Eugene Marten has
published the novels In the Blind (Turtle
Point Press), Waste (Ellipsis
Press), and the forthcoming Firework (Tyrant
Books). He lives in
Scott McClanahan has
published two short story collections, Stories (Six
Galleries Press) and Stories II (Six
Galleries Press). He is also a filmmaker and a native of
Mary Miller has published two short story collections, Less Shiny (Magic Helicopter Press) and Big World (Short Flight Long Drive).
Lydia Millet has published Omnivores (Workman), George Bush: Dark Prince of Love (Touchstone), My Happy Life (Henry Holt), Everyone's Pretty (Soft Skull Press), Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (Soft Skull Press), and How the Dead Dream (Counterpoint), and the short story collection, Love in Infant Monkeys (Soft Skull Press).
Kyle Minor published the short story collection, In the Devil’s Territory (Dzanc Books), from which his novella “A Day Meant to Do Less” was anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories 2008. He co-edited the anthology, The Other Chekhov (New American Press), and had an essay published in Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers (Random House).
Yannick Murphy is
the author of the novels, The Call (forthcoming
2011), Signed, Mata Hari, Here They
short story collection, The Bigness
of the World, won the 2008 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and
was published in the fall of 2009. Stories from it appeared in The Georgia Review, New England Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Bellingham Review,
Benjamin Percy has published two short story collections, The Language of Elk (Carnegie Mellon University Press), and Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf Press), and has a novel, The Wilding, forthcoming this fall from Graywolf Press. He has won a Whiting Award, the Plimpton Award, and his story “Refresh, Refresh” was anthologized in Pushcart Prize Stories (2007) and Best American Short Stories 2006.
Justin Taylor is the editor of The Apocalypse Reader (Thunder’s Mouth, 2007), and Come Back, Donald Barthelme (McSweeney’s 2007). His own books include a poetry collection, More Perfect Depictions of Noise (X-ing Books, 2008) and a short story collection, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever (Harper Perennial, 2010). He also co-edits The Agriculture Reader, a limited-edition arts annual.
Laura van den Berg’s short story collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books), was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers selection, a finalist for the IPPY Short Fiction Award, and was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Short Fiction Award.
*The writers are listed here in alphabetical order.