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.
The range of voices is extraordinary. There is the lyrical realism of Nell Freudenberger, Philipp Meyer, C. E. Morgan, and Salvatore Scibona; the satirical comedy of Joshua Ferris and Gary Shteyngart; and the genre-bending tales of Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, and Téa Obreht. David Bezmozgis and Dinaw Mengestu offer clear eyed portraits of immigration and identity; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, ZZ Packer, and Wells Tower offer voice-driven, idiosyncratic narratives. Then there are the haunting sociopolitical stories of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daniel Alarcón, and Yiyun Li, and the metaphysical fantasies of Chris Adrian, Rivka Galchen, and Karen Russell.
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. A landmark collection, 20 Under 40 stands as a testament to the vitality of fiction today.
In the summer of 2010, The New Yorker published stories by 20 young North American writers it had identified as standouts; this volume collects those stories. Though the authors' youth or the publication of their stories in one particular magazine might suggest a sameness, these stories are in fact quite diverse, ranging from the historical to the futuristic, from the personal to the political. And their settings span the globe. Some of the most haunting tales involve abandonment of one kind or another: a boy left behind when his brother escapes their troubled homeland in Daniel Alarcón's "Second Lives," a child abandoned in an airport by his soldier father in Salvatore Scibona's "The Kid," a woman who must leave her parents and her country to better herself in Nell Freudenberger's "An Arranged Marriage." Two of the most touching stories are "The Science of Flight," in which Yiyun Li introduces us to a lonely woman whose coworkers have no idea how much their shared work life means to her, and ZZ Packer's "Dayward," in which a boy risks all to protect his deaf sister as they flee from slavery. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers who enjoy collections such as The Best American Short Stories.—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC