Granta's list of young authors
Jonathan Safran Foer
This year, the best young American novelists cited by British literary magazine Granta are all 35 or under.
A little more than a decade ago, British literary magazine Granta picked what it thought were the best American novelists who were 40 or younger.
The names on that list – including Edwidge Danticat, Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides – went on to write popular bookshelf staples like Breath, Eyes, Memory, The Corrections and The Virgin Suicides.
But this year, nobody on Granta's new list was born before 1970, and the oldest turned 35 in 2006.
The judges — who include authors A.M. Homes and Edmund White — reasoned that as people seem to be writing and publishing fiction sooner, they have, at least in theory, a head start on their predecessors, and should be getting better, quicker.
Writing, the judges said, is increasingly seen as a career choice by Americans in their early 20s, who attend universities to learn the craft.
The writing that came from this year's honorees offers a stark contrast to that of their predecessors in 1996. That year, judges noted that American novelists were writing about ordinary experiences which the novelists themselves had never experienced.
But judges found that the current group of young authors were more preoccupied by death, loss and the uncertainty of living in America.
NPR's Scott Simon spoke with Granta editor Ian Jack about how the young authors were selected, and how their unique backgrounds provided intriguing depth to new American fiction.