20 Writers Worth Watching: The indie lit response to the New Yorker "20 Under 40" list of promising authors

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.

[image-1]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 Austin, Texas.

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 Atlanta (Achilles Chapbook Series), the chapbook When I Moved to Nevada (Greying Ghost Press), and the chapbook Before I Moved to Nevada (Publishing Genius).  This trio was combined to create the book Prose. Poems. A Novel (Orange Alert Press).[image-2]

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 University of Pittsburgh in Greenburg. He’s published the short story collections Stories in the Worst Way (Knopf, 1996, re-released by 3rd Bed in 2002), I Looked Alive (Four Walls Eight Rooms, 2003), and Partial List of People to Bleach (Future Tense Press, 2007).

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 New York City.

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 West Virginia. He is co-partner of the company Holler Presents, which has produced such films as Preacher Man, Spring, 1386, The Education of Bertie Mae McClanahan, and Lil Audrey's Last Day at School.

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 Come, and Sea of Trees. Her story collections include Stories in Another Language and In a Bear’s Eye. Her children's books include The Cold Water Witch (forthcoming Fall '10), Baby Polar, and Ahwoooooooo! She is the recipient of various awards including a Whiting Writer's Award, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and a Chesterfield Screenwriting award. Her story “In a Bear’s Eye” was recently published in the 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories.

Lori Ostlund’s 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 ReviewNew England Review, The Kenyon ReviewPrairie SchoonerBellingham ReviewHobart, and Blue Mesa Review. In the summer of 2009, she was chosen for a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award.

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.

Now don't get me wrong; I love The New Yorker as much as anyone.  Insightful book reviews, 20-page articles in a sound-bite society, and a healthy skepticism that keeps them from swallowing too much of anyone's bullshit.  There is, however, one organization whose bullshit The New Yorker will serve up for themselves by the plateful: The New Yorker.

Hearkening back to the power wielded by the magazine a century ago as literary king-and-tastemaker (clout which it may, arguably, still possess), The New Yorker compiled a list of 20 authors under the age of 40 who, in the estimation of the staff of The New Yorker, are “fiction writers who. . . are, or will be, key to their generation.”

Not to disparage the writers chosen, as they are, of course, excellent authors of excellent books, but anytime someone makes a list purporting to represent an entire body of work, there are going to be flaws. The New Yorker's flaw, which is natural enough, was to work with what they know — New York publishers and authors published in The New Yorker. Natural enough, sure, but somewhat arbitrary.

In response to The New Yorker list, Michigan independent publisher Dzanc Books sent an appeal to the independent publishing community.  "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," wrote the editors in their response.

Nearly 100 independent publishers, agents, editors, bloggers and reviewers conferred, nominating and voting in two rounds, without editorial interference. The following is a list of 20 North American authors of any age, with at least one book published or forthcoming from an indie publisher, who better represent the creative energy and talent of modern American fiction.

20 Writers Worth Watching*

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