What Youngsters Are You Fabulous Writers Reading?

Yesterday we cornered Brooklyn Book Festival panelists and asked them: who do you like among the younger generation of writers? Some of them had great answers!

Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs

Gosh, the younger generation being under what? [“That’s up to you.”] You know, I’m a big fan of Sheila Heti. Does she count as the younger generation? She’s over thirty, though, she’s 35. [She’ll be 37 on Christmas.] Turn it off a for second, I just have to think! Because I’ve been mostly reading old and dead people, lately, so it takes me a minute to—turn that off! [The recorder is turned off. Then turned back on.] There’s a writer called Bill Cheng, who’s a really wonderful young novelist. And keep an eye out for novels by Philip Klay and by Scott Cheshire [High As the Horses’ Bridles, July 2014], really super writers. You know, I feel as though there’s got to be others out there. I like Taiye Selasi. I read that book [Ghana Must Go] in the spring. I liked it very much. Then there are all sorts of ones that I mean to read, but I don’t think we can count them, so maybe we should stop there.

Lois Lowry, Son

Oh, that’s a question I can’t answer. I write for kids. I don’t read kids books. There are many young people writing kids books and I don’t know their work. Sorry!

Nicholson Baker, Traveling Sprinkler: A Novel


Well, that’s something I’d have to email you. It’s very hard. The problem with picking one person is that you’re slighting all the other people. [“It doesn’t have to be just one person.”] Well, there are many people who are doing incredibly impressive things—some of them I don’t know about, some of them I should know about, and some of them I do know about but don’t want to single them out. So, it’s the kind of question that is impossible for me.

Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings

Boy, to single people out…. [“You don’t have to single people out.”] You know, I don’t know that I always pay attention to people’s age on the back of a book. Although if you do the math you get a little terrified and want to die. But, yeah, I feel weird singling one person out from the younger generation because the work is so different from each other. There’s just a lot of really great things. I mean, I don’t know how old various people are, so it’s hard for me to say. Is Rachel Kushner a young’un? [This was effectively said with airquotes.] You know, Adelle Waldman’s book was really a pleasure. But I don’t know how old people are. It’s hard for me to say. But I’ll read anything good, and a lot of it is of course by young people.

Art Spiegelman, Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps

Let’s see. There’s a lot that are percolating now. Gabrielle Bell is very interesting. Oh gee, Anders Nilsen, and, um, I’ve been following Dash Shaw’s work—a very ambitious, young cartoonist. I’m sure I’m missing about a hundred that I like just as much. Let me think. What’s her name? Lilli Carré, I really like what her stuff looks like. Graphically, I really like Blexbolex’s work and the stuff that’s coming out of Nobrow.

All I can say, more generally, is this is the most flourishing moment for comics that I could imagine—and actually couldn’t imagine prior to what’s happening now. A lot of ferment finally is really exploding.

Sapphire, The Kid

Oh, there’s so many people. I just did a blurb for this book, Ghana Must Go. Do you know that writer? I thought she was great. What I really want to try and conjure up is some poets’ names because I don’t think they get enough recognition. Tracy K. Smith, just fantastic work. Um, not that I’m just fixated on black women’s work! But those two—that’s a young novelist and a young poet who I just feel are almost defining culture in a certain kind of way. I think that’s fabulous.

Jules Feiffer, Backing into Forward: A Memoir

The younger generation of writers? I’m just very bad at names. There are a number of people I like, but whenever I’m asked that question I’m stumped. I go blank. I just don’t have it.

Jennifer Gilmore, The Mothers

I’m trying to define “the younger generation.” I mean, the default person I always say I love so much is Zadie Smith. But I really feel like I’ve been reading Zadie Smith now for, like, fifteen years. She’s no longer in the younger guard. [She’s 37.] So, um—turn this off! Turn this off! Let me think! OK, let’s see. Well, okay, Claire Vaye Watkins wrote a book called “Battleborn.” She’s a colleague at Princeton. I thought that was an excellent book. I’m interested to see what she does next. Dana Spiotta? Not the young guard, either, necessarily. She’s in her forties, probably. I admire her work so much. Who else have I read recently? I think I read old people.

Pete Hamill, The Christmas Kid

I like Edwidge Danticat. I mean, I haven’t read that many, to be fair. I like this woman who wrote this novel about Red Hook. I forget her name now. Geez, I don’t know why I’m blanking on her name—I just read it last week. It’s a very good book. She’s a good writer. If you call me later at [phone number redacted], I’ll tell you the name of the book! [Never heard back. It’s probably Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street.] Anyway, Edwidge Danticat came to this country from Haiti when she was 11, not speaking a word of English. She’s one of the most eloquent writers in the language right now. She’s got a new novel out.

Elon Green is a contributing editor at Longform.