Friday, March 09, 2007

And The Next Big (American) Writer Is ...

The guys at Granta magazine bring their crystal balls out of the cupboard every ten years to predict the most important writers of the future. They've done it with British writers with a great degree of success: a glance at the lists for 1983, 1993, 2003 reads like a Who's Who of the British literary scene.

And now, for the second time they are doing the same with American writers, the Guardian reports.

They didn't do a bad job last time with Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore and David Guterson making the list. But most of the writers, I still haven't heard of, despite a more than average ear to the ground. (It's probably something to do with my Britlit bias: apologies to my American friends.)

These then are the chosen ones, and if you want to read more about them, there's a biodata of each on the Granta website.
Daniel Alarcón
Kevin Brockmeier
Judy Budnitz
Christopher Coake
Anthony Doerr
Jonathan Safran Foer
Nell Freudenberger
Olga Grushin
Dara Horn
Gabe Hudson
Uzodinma Iweala
Nicole Krauss
Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Yiyun Li
Maile Meloy
ZZ Packer
Jess Row
Karen Russell
Akhil Sharma
Gary Shteyngart
John Wray
How many have you heard of? If you said "All of them", sorry, you're bluffing. Seven have not been published yet and make their debut in the latest edition of the magazine.

A.L.Kennedy (herself Granta listed twice) on the Guardian blog admits she's only heard of one them.

I feel nicely smug because I've heard of Jonathan Safran Foer, have bought Uzodinma Iweala's novel, and have read (and loved!) Yiyun Li and Rattawat Lapcharoensap. (Come to think of it, it seems that some good writers from elsewhere have been conveniently appropriated. Poor Yiyun Li probably doesn't even have her green card yet!!)

The age limit for "young writers" has now apparently been lowered from 40 to 35. Says Granta editor Ian Jack:
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.
In the introduction to the current issue of the magazine which brings together samples of the writing, Ian Jack points to a changes in focus: writers' interest in social class has "ebbed" and in its place is "a concern with death, uncertainty and the outside world". He also observes that nearly all of the writers on the list have attended creative writing courses.

But won't be all sunshine and roses for listed writers from hereonin if Kennedy's own experience is anything to go by. She described the dubious pleasures of:
... touring the country for readings, largely to tiny audiences, and sitting in a cupboard with my fellow authors to sign so many copies of Granta that by the end of it all, my signature was so permanently mangled I had to notify my bank. And it meant I attended a party at the Saatchi gallery and got to see the Blood Head and Patrick Stewart.
But come to think of it, the first time I heard of A.L.Kennedy was on a Granta list, and I have, since, bought her books.

I think I will make my predictions about the most promising young Malaysian writers, but hey, I'm going to seal up the paper and bury it in a time-capsule ... and blog about it ten years hence!


darkhello said...

Fantastic! Jonathan Safran Foer is on the list! And his wife, Nicole Krauss too! :D

I wonder if what Kennedy says holds true for every author. What happens when they get disillusioned with all that fame around them?

bibliobibuli said...

i think like a. l.kennedy says, that it's all very well being recognised, but just bring on the dosh!

paradox_equation said...

I would definitely want to hear your opinion on promising young writers in Malaysia today! On a related note, would you be interested in "reviewing" (well, comments, or just some thoughts) a few of the stories published in Inkyhands? :D

Joe ZH

p.s. Thanks for the plug in Vision KL!

Kari said...

oh no, i'm american but i haven't heard of even one! shame shame...

bibliobibuli said...

joe - yes, mean to put up a plug for inky hands too

karl - i feel better now. meanwhile, do go read yiyun li and rattawat!