Monday, June 21, 2010

Who are the Canadian 20 under 40?

Last week, I wrote a blog post about New Yorker magazine's 20 under 40—their look at 20 young authors who are going to define the next generation of American fiction—it got me wondering ... who are the Canadian 20 under 40?

The New Yorker included 3 Canadian authors on their list David Bezmozgis, Rivka Galchen and Wells Tower, so we'll assume they are already on our list. But who are the other 17? Here's a few possibilities:

Devin Code (1981): Code is from Dartmouth, NS although he lives beyond Nova Scotia's borders. So far he has one published book - short story collection In a Mist - which the Globe and Mail put in its top ten debut releases for 2008. His writing is clear and concise but thoughtful and honest with a strong sense of place.

Nicholas Dickner (1972): fans of CBC's Canada Reads will quickly recognize Dickner's name from this year's competition where his novel Nikolski came out on top. The Globe and Mail called Nikolski "a breathtakingly original perception of the world, mixing geography, cartography and longing in a language and construction both intellectually sophisticated and emotionally affecting." Canada Reads represented a breakthrough for Dickner into English Canada, although in Quebec he was already known. The original French version of Nikolski won several prizes and he has two other collections of stories in print.

Jessica Grant (1972): a co-worker mentioned Grant before I really even had chance to finish my question about what authors to include in this post. Grant has recently published her first novel Come, Thou Tortise "a delightfully off-beat story that features an opinionated tortoise, Winnifred, and an IQ-challenged narrator who find themselves in the middle of a life-changing mystery". The book has won a number of accolades recently including the 2010 First Novel Award and the Afterword's Canada Also Reads contest. We talked about it here. Her previous book of short stories Making Light of Tragedy, includes the Journey Prize winning "My Husband's Jump".

Annabel Lyon (1971): Lyon's historical fiction title from last year The Golden Mean has definitely been her breakaway hit. Nominated for both The Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for Fiction, it has thrust her into the limelight. Her earlier works include the short story collection Oxygen and a collection of three novellas called The Best Thing For You. The BC author was also included in the 13th edition of the Journey Prize anthology which celebrates the best Canadian short fiction each year.

Pasha Malla (1978): The library catalogue describes the stories in Malla's debut collection The Withdrawal Method as having "inventive language, clarity, and empathy" and that "Malla constructs resonant and unusual stories that instantly connect with readers". The collection gained him a lot of accolades - winning both the Trillium Book Award and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and being longlisted for the Giller Prize. He regularly contributes to American literary magazine McSweeney's and other Canadian media.

Zoe Whittal (1976): Zoe Whittal's blog has this highly praising quote from the Globe and Mail as its heading: "Zoe Whittall might just be the cockiest, brashest, funniest, toughest, most life-affirming, elegant, scruffy, no-holds-barred writer to emerge from Montreal since Mordecai Richler...". The quote came from their review of her 2007 novel Bottle Rocket Hearts, which the Globe also named to their top 100 list that year. Her most recent book is Holding Still For as Long as Possible: set in Toronto amongst twenty somethings finding their way in life and love.

Okay, that's only 6 more and I'm not going to try to be definitive. I'll bet The New Yorker had a panel of folks who sat down for awhile and combed through the authors that they had been working with over the years. I'm sure I've missed someone - probably someone really obvious and of course those under the radar folks who never seem to get the attention they deserve. Hey, I'm just one little librarian who sat down and tried to brainstorm this over the course of a week.

So, I'll ask for your help. Who else should be here? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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