The New Yorker has created a list of 20 writers under 40 worth watching. You probably hate it already, without even knowing who's on it. But how can you complain about it, without looking jealous and bitter?
So: The New Yorker's 20 under 40. Has your mother called you yet, to ask why you're not on it? ("It's very political, mom.") This is a list, in case you couldn't tell, of fiction writers who were all born more recently than 1970. It is very important to the 300 people who still read fiction, because that's what lists do: Tell you what is important.
This is how it came about: Sometime last year, Eustace Tilley and the fiction editors holed up in New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman's house, talking about "books" and "writing" and listening to Hounds of Love on repeat, playing Russian Roulette till dawn and watching publishers and agents dance, naked, begging Lady Treisman to put their authors on her devil's list. (Okay, actually, they just had a couple meetings back in January and looked up some birthdays and chose 20 writers, eight of whom will be published in an upcoming "fiction" special; the other 12 in subsequent issues of the magazine.)
Anyway. The list has been given to The New York Times. And it definitely has 20 authors on it! Are you ready? Are you just, like, totally pumped? Here are the greatest 20 authors to have never turned 40 years old:
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Chris Adrian
- Daniel Alarcón
- David Bezmozgis
- Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
- Joshua Ferris
- Jonathan Safran Foer
- Nell Freudenberger
- Rivka Galchen
- Nicole Krauss
- Yiyun Li
- Dinaw Mengestu
- Philipp Meyer
- C. E. Morgan
- Téa Obreht
- Z Z Packer
- Karen Russell
- Salvatore Scibona
- Gary Shteyngart
- Wells Tower
Hey, so, it's not a bad list. Rivka Galchen is great! But if you're an author under 40, you can't admit that! You aren't on the list, and therefore, the list sucks. The thing is, you don't want to sound bitter when you complain about it to your Tumblr followers/barber/kidnap victim. The key is to be as dismissive as possible. Here are some guidelines:
DON'T pick on specific writers who you hate.
DO pretend you don't even read new fiction.
Sample: "Jonathan Safran Foer? He's a writer, you say? Hmm. I'll definitely check him out, when I finish rereading Box Man."
DON'T accuse the magazine of favoritism or "affirmative action."
DO make up authors and wonder vaguely why they're not on the list.
Sample: "That's odd—I was sure Suzanne Jeffersontonian would be here. Oh well."
DON'T claim that you could come up with a better group of writers
DO act skeptical about the concept of "lists."
Sample: "So these are, what, the best writers under 40? Huh."
DON'T spend more than 200 words or five minutes talking about it.
DO use the phrase "for what it is" as much as possible.
Sample: For what it is, this is great! For what it is.
DON'T call it "unsurprising" or "boring."
DO pretend you didn't even know about the list.
Sample: "Oh, The New Yorker? It's a magazine, right? They publish fiction?"
And don't worry! I'm sure you'll make it next time. Unless you're over 40, in which case, sorry.
[NYT; pic, of editor-in-chief David Remnick, via Getty]