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

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*