Best Young American “Novelists”

A friend and I were discussing this list the other day–she was dismayed that Granta’s Best Young American Novelists included a large handful of writers who have yet to finish a novel. (For the count and a similar opinion, check out Dan Wickett at Emerging Writers, who has a very accurate count–though I must say, Yiyun Li is believed to be working on a novel).

“How can a list titled ‘Best Novelists’ include any writers who have yet to write a novel?” she asked, as we nibbled on chocolate treats.

My friend’s comment made me pause–yes, the list DOES include about 7 writers who have yet to produce a novel (at least one of whom JUST published his first novel, probably not part of the consideration process).

I’m not arguing with the quality of the writers on the list–most of them, Yiyun Li included, are genius fiction writers and I look forward to any writing they put out. And I say “most of them” because I haven’t read all of them–it may very well be a complete and accurate list of the the best young American fiction writers out there.

But are they all novelists?

What prevented Granta from titling the list “Best Young American Fiction Writers?”

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Best Young American “Novelists”

  1. Oh, I was going to blog about that list! I hadn’t thought of the fact that they aren’t all novelists. Interesting!

  2. okay…this might rile people up but I have to say it:

    It’s such an obvious “the emporer wears no clothes” thing. I feel as if granta just logged on to the Iowa Writer’s workshop website and clicked on their “notable alumni” pages. It’s kind of lame…if you ask me. I think zz packer, is near genious, but she hasn’t been able to finish her first novel yet (as far as I know)…and Yiyun Li is still writing hers, and Alarcon’s just came out. I respect these three young writers immensely, and I look up to them, but I have to say that how can we tell if they are novelists? I mean, I guess we can with Alarcon, because his novel just came out, but how did Granta get a chance to read it so fast? And the others? This literary industry is creating a kind of false kind of celebrity worship. After all, these are writers, not American Idol. What is the point of this kind of obsessive listing of “bests”. It seems so strange.

    How can we measure if their work is the stuff of novels, yet? We really can’t until a novel is before us, done and in it’s entirety.

    It also feels tremendously unfair to other writers, those of us who are not a part of the establishment, who are not in the “iowa-stegner-irvine” clique. It is also incredibly unfair to the writers listed who have not yet produced an entire novel because it puts pressure on these talented short story writers who are trying to balance work, writing their first novels, and their carreers. It just seems like an all-around bad idea for Granta to do this. Someone should write them a letter.

    I want to pinch myself. Maybe it’s all a dream and I will wake up realizing that I read the award incorrectly and that they won some kind of best short story writer’s list, and this was all some kind of large typo, or an ironic commentary done at the last minute by some insensed publishing intern, before Granta went to press, wherein she changed the word short story writer for novelist. Hmmm…

  3. I hear you, wildguppy. You introduced a critique of the list I hadn’t yet pondered, and I find myself agreeing with it wholeheartedly on many levels.

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