Alec Niedenthal is the 17-year-old Alabama novelist who became suddenly prominent thanks to a cheeky letter in the Times Book Review last month. The missive promised a new wave of fiction from a "MySpace-addled" generation, called out well-known older authors and included many large words. This attracted interest from publishers HarperCollins and Grove/Atlantic and an inquiry from Jonathan Franzen's literary agent. But of this group, only one party, HarperCollins, deigned to meet with Niedenthal on his trip to New York this past weekend, and the ambitious young writer left town with a tote bag rather than any deal. He'll presumably have a more fruitful tour after finishing his own edition of the collective "manuscript" alluded to in his Times letter. Until then, the hordes of older novelists struggling to get published have no reason to gouge their eyes out with a fork. After the jump, Niedenthal recalls for the Observer his HarperCollins meeting.
"I was kind of anxious and nervous to meet important people," he recalled that night. "At first we just talked about books, mostly stuff that he had published in his division. He gave me a couple books that he had published." Alec paused after he said this for about 30 seconds to finish typing out a text message. "He also gave me this," he added, indicating a totebag, "which is really cool. I've never really had a totebag before."
As for the novel, part of which Mr. Callahan had read: "It follows three impressionable, sort of naive, romantic kids who go on this sort of introspective road trip...
"We didn't discuss it too much. He just told me he liked it but that I needed to tighten it up."