The first—and until last night, only—list of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists came out in 1996, and anointed such under-35 literary stars as Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, Mona Simpson, Edwidge Danticat, Sherman Alexie, and Jeffrey Eugenides, while also selecting a few who slunk into obscurity, and neglecting to select several—including one, A.M. Homes, who was a judge for this year's selection—who have gone on to critical and, sometimes, commercial acclaim. So this year's list, being a once-in-10-years event, was a closely guarded secret until the celebration last evening at Housing Works, the nonprofit Crosby Street bookstore-caf .
The party was filled with the sorts of publishing-world luminaries who make the rounds of these sorts of affairs, like bespectacled Grove/Atlantic EIC Morgan Entrekin, Random House EIC Daniel Menaker, Little, Brown EIC Geoff Shandler, and Endeavor's own Richard Abate. Oh, and Sean Wilsey, too. (Vintage/Anchor publicist and omnipresent party-goer Sloane Crosley had, alas, taken ill.) Some arrived conspicuously carrying their new tote bags from the Los Angeles Times book awards shortlist announcement, which had taken place earlier in the evening at the National Arts Club. (No Granta tote bags, unfortunately.)
When Granta's Swedish publisher-owner Sigrid Rausing (her grandfather was Sweden's richest person at one time, thanks to his food-packaging business, Tetra-Pak), took her turn at the microphone, she (oddly) began by naming some of the young novelists who had, sadly, missed the cut. Joshua Ferris, Benjamin Markovits, and Benjamin Kunkel, our condolences!
The list itself is mostly a not unfamiliar one: Jonathan Safran Foer and his wife, Nicole Krauss, both made the list, though neither was in attendance, despite their willingness to go to the Housing Works cafe at the drop of a hat; former Bill Buford ing nue Nell Freudenberger; Maile Meloy, whose brother is Colin of the indie-rock band The Decemberists; ex-investment banker Akhil Sharma; ZZ Packer, no way!; and the seemingly ubiquitous Russian Debutante's Handbook and Absurdistan author Gary Shteyngart (someone was overheard saying, "That's Gary Shteyngart? I didn't realize how... short he was"). The judges seem to be taking a liberal view of "under-35"; Gabe Hudson and Akhil Sharma, at the least, are 35. Hudson may even be 36. Well, sooner or later, they'll all be.