Over Forty Writers Over Forty to Watch

Writing the title of this post actually felt very silly; it seems such an arbitrary way of gathering a list of writers to look out for. What could be sillier than singling out writers in this way, according to their age? Surely, there are more worthy criteria. Well, there is an answer to what could be sillier than singling out over forty writers over forty to watch, namely, singling twenty writers under forty to watch, especially largely mainstream writers writing, for the most part, conventional and redundant fiction. And the New Yorker has done just that. But this isn’t surprising. Theirs is an idea once again institutionalizing, reinforcing our decayed culture’s obsession with youth, not to mention its eyes wide shut wallowing in mediocrity. So, not only have they missed, for the most part, who are the best fiction writers under forty to watch, but, with their unapologetic valorization of youth, they missed entirely. The following writers (and I include poets, essayists, and theorists among them) are writers who have consistently written great work. I anticipate great things from each of them in the years and years to come. With full awareness of how a corrective sometimes ironically and paradoxically legitimizes what it seeks to correct, here, in the order in which I thought of them, are over forty writers over forty whose work I will be busy watching.

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Maria Wyeth = Patrick Bateman

I’m reading Play It As It Lays for the first time. I don’t recall reading about how Bret Easton Ellis stole his entire style from Joan Didion. How could I have missed that? The deadpan delivery of line after line by vacuous cyphers in Didion’s Hollywood read almost exactly like those of Ellis’s Wall Street. The pacing, the eerie hallucinogenic effect of having characters talk over one another and barely listen. The stock-like characters presented as so much dreary wallpaper in scenes whose purpose is to convey a sexually-charged alienation.

At the table on the terrace where Maria and BZ sat for dinner there were a French director, his cinematographer, and two English Lesbians who lived in Santa Monica Canyon. Maria sat next to the cinematographer, who spoke no English, and during dinner BZ and the French director disappeared into the house. Maria could smell marijuana, but it was not mentioned on the terrace. The cinematographer and the two Lesbians discussed the dehumanizing aspect of American technology, in French.

I’m not finished yet, so this post is obviously premature. But so far I’m stunned by the similarity. Has this debt already been well-established? Or am I way off base?