Is there a David Bowie of literature?—such an asinine question, as dumb as asking, “Is there a Virginia Woolf of music?”—arguing against it arguably as asinine as answering it at all, even on its own terms, which is to say, which “David Bowie”? which “literature”?; not to mention the problem of even locating a “there” with any kind of certainty, and of establishing what and/or where or whatever “Is” in this case is.
Will Alexander’s Exobiology As Goddess is a book-length paean to Solea of the Simooms, an invented divinity—is there any other kind?—who is a “blazing heresy within absence”; who is “void & negation as density / spiraling / through scorched titanium as emptiness”; who “roams in a zone without mass.” The book’s complex, polycrystalline textual surface is further complicated by a cascade of images rendered in a language informed by the tropes of various mythologies, but also by the sciences, including geology, mineralogy, astronomy, paleontology, and physics.
Alexander, likens the writing of “Solea of the Simooms” to “trying to transfix the elusive elementals of the mirage. I was attempting in ‘Solea’ to work with a language not unlike the inscrutable motion found in the symbols of jasper and blood. In another sense it is a cosmological isolation and wandering. But in the end, it is poetry which contains in its substance the power always hidden by invisibility.”
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.