My review of 20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker ran today at PopMatters.
I really enjoyed two stories in this collection: Phillipp Meyer’s “What You Do Out Here, When You’re Alone,” and Nell Fruedenberger’s “An Arranged Marriage.” I particularly enjoyed Meyer’s capsule biography in the back of the book, which was far more compelling than the incessant listing of accolades and awards that the other writers provided. Most of the stories did not do anything for me, and in the cases of Jonathan Safran Foer and Gary Shteyngart, their contributions made me not feel so bad about avoiding their popular, successful novels. From what I can tell, the New Yorker has done a good job showcasing the works of writers who are already quite popular in literary circles and have earned a lot of praise. I think a collection like this would be a lot more valuable if the New Yorker used their high station and prestige to shine some light on talented writers who’ve yet to be discovered. But obviously that would require a fairly significant amount of effort and searching on their part.