- 20 Under 40: Stories from The New Yorker edited by Deborah Treisman
- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Original edition (November 23, 2010)
- ISBN-13: 978-0374532871
Who and what is the book about (back-of-the-book blurb): In June 2010, the editors of The New Yorker announced to widespread media coverage their selection of “20 Under 40”—the young fiction writers who are, or will be, central to their generation. The magazine published twenty stories by this stellar group of writers over the course of the summer. They are now collected for the first time in one volume.
Each of these writers reminds us why we read. And each is aiming for greatness: fighting to get and to hold our attention in a culture that is flooded with words, sounds, and pictures; fighting to surprise, to entertain, to teach, and to move not only us but generations of readers to come. This collection stands as a testament to the vitality of fiction today.
Where and when does it take place: The stories in this collection cover a lot of ground – from workers in a radio factory of mid-70s USSR (David Bezmozgis’ “The Train of Their Departure”) to a courtroom in 1990s-era Manhattan (Nicole Krauss’ “The Young Painters”) to a seaside resort in Egypt (Téa Obrecht’s “Blue Water Dinn”).
What would I say to a friend who asked me about it: Several people have told me “I don’t like short stories,” and I wonder *why* they don’t like short stories. Perhaps they’ve tried to read a collection written by one author, whose style simply doesn’t connect with the reader.
This anthology of young writers (gah! If writers under 40 are “young,” what does that make me?!?), offers a diverse style of writing.
While this diversity is itself a good reason to dip into 20 Under 40, the collection will have a special appeal to those who generally enjoy the fiction in The New Yorker. These tend to be darker, edgier, stories.
The 20 Under 40 anthology gave me a chance to read something of authors whose full-length novels are the proverbial to-be-read stacks (Gary Shteyngart, Nicole Krauss, Téa Obrecht and Karen Russell), to visit the shorter work of those whose novels I’ve enjoyed (Joshua Ferris and Jonathan Safran Foer), and to “discover” several completely new-to-me authors (Nell Freudenberger, Philipp Meyer, C. E. Morgan, Salvatore Scibona, David Bezmozgis and Dinaw Mengestu, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, ZZ Packer, Wells Tower, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daniel Alarcón, Yiyun Li, Chris Adrian, and Rivka Galchen).
That’s quite a list of authors to explore, isn’t it?!
Deborah Treisman’s Introduction talks a bit about how these twenty were selected, and the comments (both positive and negative) that The New Yorker received in response to these selections. She’s passionate about the choices, saying:
… what was notable in all the writing, above and beyond a capacity for language and for storytelling, was a clear sense of ambition … they are all aiming high. In a culture that is flooded with words, sounds, and pictures, they are fighting to get our attention, and to hold it. They are digging within themselves — and around themselves — to bring us news both of the world and of the human heart.
Why did I read it: We chose this as a book group selection last year; at the time I read only those four stories we had ear-marked for discussion. I picked up 20 Under 40 recently during a “reading funk” and found it the perfect antidote to the puzzle of what to read next.
A few favorite passages: Because of the nature of the anthology (many authors), I’ll not share any excerpts (as it would necessarily lean toward one author or another). In fact, I read these stories so greedily, eager for the quick escapes, that I didn’t even mark any passages as I read.
What else can I add: Can I say “I love the cover!” The author illustrations were drawn by a Swedish designer who uses the name Grafilu; check out larger images of the 20 Under 40 authors on Grafilu’s website.
This is a nice (French flaps!) paperback edition from FSG – 400 pages for $16, a bargain!