“At least rest assured that the future of fiction is in safe hands” – Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists 3

boyanI have to admit that I had heard of very few of the authors in Granta’s Best Young American Novelists 3. When you look back at the previous two collections, it’s difficult to imagine never having heard of some of those names. Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides featured in the first in 1996, while Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer and Gary Shteyngart featured in the second in 2007. With this in mind, it’s almost impossible to read this new anthology and wonder who will be household names by the time the next one appears.

Among the stand out authors for me was Garth Risk Hallberg. His story, ‘The Meat Suit’, perfectly captures the mind and voice of a troubled teenage girl among wonderful prose:

‘Some adults were like psychological Mormons: you let them in as far as the vestibule and the next thing you knew they were in the middle of your living space.’

Jen George’s ‘Revolutions’ is a wickedly imaginative fantasy that will no doubt draw comparisons with Orwell’s 1984 with the many cultural restrictions enforced by ‘the party’:

‘I make a cake out of charred newspaper, nail clippings, cornmeal, shrimp powder, and boxed gelatin. ‘Happy birthday to you,’ I sing, a candlestick from the drugstore intended for an emergency brightly lit.’

And then there’s Joshua Cohen’s ‘Uri’, which gives a fascinating insight into a young conscript’s time in the Israeli army:

‘He was a single man who’d become single-minded about calibres and ranges, after all his juvenile interests in metal guitar and manga and capoeira and scorpions.’

Other notable mentions are Jesse Ball, Yaa Gyasi, Lauren Groff and Karan Mahajan with his excellent – and suitably meta – story, ‘The Anthology’, and who manages to make the bombing of a literary event in Delhi humorous and poignant.

Terrorism comes up in a few of the stories, many have aspects of fantasy, and there’s even one that features Trump and a possible future if the current US president has his way – quite terrifying.

I didn’t skip a single story as I read through all 300-plus pages and 21 authors. There was nothing here that dragged or felt out of place; every tale hooked me in one way or another, and I now have a new long list of writers to check out in the coming few years.

Any Cop?: As many of us worry about the state of the planet or world politics, we can at least rest assured that the future of fiction is in safe hands.

 

Jim Dempsey

 

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