Granta 97: Best of Young American Novelists 2

Posted: July 30, 2007 in Literary Award, Literary Issue

Granta’s list of the twenty-one Best Young American Novelists is out now.

The spring issue of Granta magazine, Granta 97: ‘Best of Young American Novelists 2’, is devoted to their new work—a revealing insight into a new generation of American writing which shows, beside its talent, what bothers and inspires the imagination of modern America.

Read extracts from Granta 97, find out about the latest ‘Best of Young American Novelists’ events, post a comment below and buy copies of the magazine online.

Published in the US on April 24, 2007

Published in the UK on May 10, 2007

Cover image: Paul Elliman


Asadollah Amraee
March 4 06:11

Granta and its publications and lists are in fact an exercise on behalf of contemporary literature, and it makes waves in the vast sea of contemporary fiction. I came across Granta with dirty realism, before those names acquired their present status as celebrities. Due to difficult situation in my war torn country providing copies of Granta was a difficult task. Normally, it took six or seven month to get a copy. I am in debt with Granta for introducing Many good writers, among them, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Hanif Kureishi, Ben Okri, Edwidge Danticat, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff and many others. Although nowadays I will be aware early on Granta publications but it is still difficult to obtain. Normally I ask a visitor or a friend going abroad to buy me a copy and I pay him or her here. But it is worthy. I have all copies of granta since Dirty Realism. I hope to get the newly published Granta soon, but I have to wait a traveling visitor to go abroad, UK or the States.

a reader
March 4 18:01

I’m not sure that you guys noticed, but a few of these people have not yet published novels. So how does that work exactly?

memoirs & lgbt reader
March 5 15:49

Which young novelist is “Missing” from your list?

David Montalvo, boy with an ‘i’

While his book has not yet captured book reviewers of The New York Times, it has done more – it has captured our generation. At least for me, it’s unlike any book I’ve read and, to the underground art world, it’s a remarkable media-comprehensive, passionate book.

S. Macalester
March 7 19:55

This list should be retitled, ‘Best of Young American Novelists 2, With the Particularly Glaring Omission of Chris Adrian.’

David Reid
March 10 05:57

Why is it that great new writing always winds up being nothing more than words. There never is some great stylist whose phrasing takes writing to deeper depths,and newer truths. Everytime I hear about some great new writer and I read their stuff it usually winds up being nothing special. I realize that writing is an art form that can be taught,but not everyone can do it well. I want some great word play,not something that could have been written by any idiot with a decent grasp of the English language.

Balachandar A.
March 11 14:47

I observed that one of the Granta Magazines [I think about a decade ago] carried the price tag in Indian rupees. I have not noticed the price tag in Indian currency thereafter. Why not start marketing the magazine in India in Indian currency?

Elizabeth Ziemska
March 22 05:14

Love that Gary Shteyngart. He writes ecstatically, to paraphrase Updike on Nabokov, the way prose should be written. Not that I equate Shteyngart with Nabokov…. I have not read all the writers on your best-of list, but many of the ones I have read (won’t mention), seem too studied, too polished, too self-aware, their voices rubbed smooth and mechanical after too many workshops. Perhaps that’s just my taste, but I prefer early Will Self, early Martin Amis, late Lethem. But I admire your magazine. It’s where I first encountered Tibor Fischer (if he would only get out of his way and write something he really care about).

Diana M. L.
March 23 13:35

The problem with this issue is it’s a recapitulation of what we already know: these are the folks with two-book deals and scores of awards, brightly assembled in an array of ethnicities, genders, and writing styles. Like the Pepsi-Doritos logo the issue’s cover evokes, this is material safe for consumption, vetted by focus groups, preserved in advance so it won’t expire for at least five years. But for the readers of Granta, who I imagine are the few thousand people who keep very close tabs on the minutiae of the literary world, this group is already an old product, with only a slightly new, improved taste.

Not that these aren’t some of the best, young novelists – sure, they are. But that fact has already been decided by publishing houses and awards committees. Perhaps I was mistaken, but I thought this issue was supposed to be decided by Granta’s research team – where’s the evidence of the work they did? Isn’t there a great writer in the vast United States who Granta recognizes as brilliant that no agent has so far? What if publication in this issue was determined by anonymous submission from published authors? There seem to be so many ways in which this bag of chips could have been less stale.

Looking back on the 1996 list, one is left to wonder what its worth is, other than confirmation of what seemed like a safe bet a decade ago? There’s far too many literary stars of that generation omitted – Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud, Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, just to name the most obvious – that it begs the question of the worth of such a collection of the best, young novelists in the first place. Well, at the very least these kinds of groupings make people excited about fiction and no writer can argue with that at all.

But what about creating an issue that is dedicated to what is actually new (since determining what is ‘best’ is always going to be too tricky and subjective)? What if you were to create an issue called Writers You Should Know About (But Don’t Already). Its contents may not all last another decade, but I’m sure the material you unearth will be fresher, and to use one last metaphor, more organic.

Floyd Turbeaux
March 23 17:19

I have enjoyed all of the folks whose work I’ve read. They’re talented and interesting and deserve wide recognition. That said, several of have never published a novel, and won’t before they turn 35. An age restriction so tight that it requires fiddling with the other nominal criteria has pushed what was already a dubious exercise into the realm of self parody. And how did you deal with the obvious social ties between some of the authors and judges?

Jeff Edmunds
March 23 22:50

Tom Bissell is not on the list! In my mind he is the best young American writer today.

A. Balachandar
March 25 14:31

I am eagerly awaiting the Granta Magazine No.97 Best of Young American Novelists 2. I find Granta Magazine unique in its own way in the subjects covered and in the contents.

I look forward to Granta Magazine on Best of Young Indian Novelists in English.

Martin McKiernan
March 26 11:05

Why do I have to wait until May for issue 97!?! I have been diagnosed with Burn Out and I will have to spend sometime at home – a fresh dose of Granta will no doubt do me a power of good, may even keep me sane!

Sushma Joshi
March 31 07:27

The problem with American writing is that it gets alarming similarly in a very short period of time. Everybody eating in MacDonald’s and watching the same TV channels. Everybody writing in first person. Everybody trying to emulate the ‘spare’ (read: boring) prose of Carver and Hemingway. Or else they’re trying to emulate great novelists from some other tradition. Everybody thinking that an immigrant story deserves a big award–never mind how tediously it is written.

It is almost as if America needs the Russian emigres to brighten up their literary world–so yes, Shteyngart takes my vote. Viva Russia! Second prize to Nicole Krauss and Anthony Doerr, and third to Daniel Alarcon. After all, where would America be without the Latin/South Americans?

Kyle Minor
April 1 20:17

Bravo to Granta, for introducing writers like Kevin Brockmeier, Christopher Coake, Yiyun Li, etc., to the broader audience they deserve.

Stuart Gray
April 7 22:19

Love the cool linear design of this site, and found it easy to navigate. I really want to subscibe to this magazine… looks great. Amazing site!

Jonathan Waite
April 10 22:58

Once again Granta publishes a issue packed with immature and unimaginative writing, by enthusiatic and talented young writers with identikit CVs.

Sadly schools of Creative Writing do not teach creativity; rather than collecting lterary awards authors need to get a life.

A more worthwhile approach would require the abolition of arbritrary discrimination by date of birth and produce an issue for new novelists, writers publishing their first fiction at any age. Maybe some of the authors might have experienced more than the inside of a classroom.

Lynn Smith
April 14 15:28

In naming best young American novelists, Granta may have overlooked young writers who write for the YA audience. M.T. Anderson’s _The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: the Pox Party (2006) is a masterpiece of literature which examines slavery, and the odd phenomenon here named “the College of Lucidity,” in the pre-Revolutionary American colonies. Please please please read it.

Lynn Smith
School Librarian, retired

Lynn Smith
April 14 15:41

Thank you so very much for this list. One more note on YA writers — Illiteracy is a huge threat to our nation (USA). To combat this, my highest goal is to help kids find books which they will love reading, relating to, and thinking about. YA writers are heroes. They are providing fabulous stories and material about issues relevant to kids’ lives and written in their language. In my opinion this work will be a crucial factor in turning our country and our kids away from ignorance and inertia, and towards active thinking, caring, creative, responsible life.

P. Mohanan
April 19 07:12

Truth in a trasparent narration, that is what i felt reading Akhil. How sincere and simple he is dealing with the life, which is the protoplasm of his art. I am very much attracted to his writing. I am an author of 4 novels in Malayalam language of Kerala,South India.

Jane Librizzi
April 24 18:02

I have the same quarrel with this list, as with the first one: too few women. We’re often told that men don’t read fiction, but men keep telling women to read fiction written by men. This leaves more than half of life out, just as the slaves always know more about the masters than the masters know about the slaves. I wish you had included Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Jhumpa Lahiri, ,Julie Otsuka, and Julie Hecht, just to name a few.

Asher McClinton
May 2 04:55

Although your list of young writers includes prodigious talents, I fear that your selection committee has made some egregious oversights, namely Emily Barton and Marisha Pessl whose debut novel was also listed as one of the ten best books of 2006. I can’t fathom how a credible list of the most formiddable and promising writers under 40 could omit these two young women who put the vast majority of your list to shame.

David Stevenson
May 6 00:16

It’s been noted earlier here, but to repeat: why not just use the word “writers”? Does the word “novelist” mean anything here, as you use it? Hint: in common usage it refers to persons who have written novels.

May 18 04:18

Hello, Your site is great.

Amy Perez
July 6 16:31

Check out the link to the 1996 list and count the number of then ‘best young novelists’ who are still relevant today. I got three. Should give you an idea of how this year’s list of critics darlings and ethnic flavors of the month will hold up in ten years.

Aidan K
July 21 19:34

Great idea, but no Dave Eggers??? Very odd, methinks.

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