Who's written fiction within the last 5-10 years that deals realistically with the experience of American people under 40? Please recommend!
December 14, 2007 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Who's written fiction within the last 5-10 years, that deals realistically with the experience of American people under 40?

I studied English in school so have read a lot of classics but am less familiar with the new stuff. Now I want to bone up on recent fiction (novels or short stories) that's about, and probably by, young and youngish Americans. Bonus points if it's realist; I read 'Indecision' by Ben Kunkel and 'Everything is Illuminated' by Jonathan Safran Foer in the last couple of years, and was amused by both but not blown away by either; I think I would have preferred something less cartoonish. OTOH, I really liked 'Wide Eyed' by Trinie Dalton, and it's pretty out there. Anyhoo. Tell me who's doing the important stuff, please.
posted by toomuchkatherine to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Check out The Believer for some leads. There's no fiction in the magazine, but it's made by a group of writers that are "young and youngish" who read and review good new writing, some of it realist. Plus, it's a good read in its own right. Also, I think you might like Rick Moody.
posted by ourobouros at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2007

Look into some Tom Perrotta.
posted by stratospark at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2007

I've recommended Richard Lange's Dead Boys previously; the San Francisco Chronicle called it one of the best short story collections in 50 years.
posted by scody at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2007

I felt the same way about Indecision; at least, I thought it was good but not great.

I can't stop thinking about this year's novel Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, which was about 20- to 30- (to a few 40-) somethings that work at an ad agency in Chicago during the early '90s. It was definitely great and not just good, at least in my opinion. It's also his first novel, and he's fairly young.
posted by k8lin at 3:35 PM on December 14, 2007

Miranda July.
posted by mmdei at 3:36 PM on December 14, 2007

Douglas Coupland.
posted by Ostara at 3:41 PM on December 14, 2007

Jonathan Franzen
posted by caddis at 4:01 PM on December 14, 2007

Yeah, Douglas Coupland. He coined "generation x". His latest, "JPod" is an all around amusing look at the tech industry..
posted by aeighty at 4:03 PM on December 14, 2007

Check out Rick Moody's 2005 novel, "The Diviners". Moody is best known for "The Ice Storm", which became a film, and he writes wonderful short stories.
posted by hermitosis at 4:20 PM on December 14, 2007

Jonathan Lethem's 'Fortress of Solitude'
posted by gnutron at 4:43 PM on December 14, 2007

Aimee Bender, Arthur Bradford, Judy Budnitz, Amanda Davis, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, Myla Goldberg, A.M. Homes, Shelley Jackson, Ken Kalfus, Matt Klam, Kelly Link, Sam Lipsyte, Stacey Richter, Julia Slavin, Gary Shteyngart, David Foster Wallace.
posted by mattbucher at 5:36 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

i also really really enjoyed this book by Julie Orringer
posted by gnutron at 6:00 PM on December 14, 2007

Doug Coupland's got one out newer than JPod, it's called The Gum Thief and it keeps to his well explored themes of isolation and characters finding themselves, but the new thing is that it's written as letters between characters, which is pretty neat.

Marisha Pessl wrote Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I liked a lot - it's a first-person retrospective written by a college senior and while it fits neatly in with the Eggers school of writing, I found it a little less... exuberant than most of his work, which was value-neutral for me but has been a plus for a lot of other people.

My experience with Haruki Murakami has led me to believe that he also writes books that largely involve characters of the under-40 set, but I don't know if it's quite what you want, seeing as he involves a lot of surreality and there's another cultural barrier to contend with.

Nick Hornby usually writes characters closer to 40, and his books are approaching the upper limit of your age group for the novels themselves, but it's another option.

Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex is a great book, and even though about half the book explores the lives of the main character's ancestors, it's a good read.

More to come as I think of it; I'm at work in a bookstore, so I can poll coworkers and customers as necessary.
posted by heeeraldo at 6:20 PM on December 14, 2007

"Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld is sort of like "Catcher in the Rye" with a female protagonist. I loved it.
posted by grumblebee at 6:47 PM on December 14, 2007

Warning: mattbucher's list consists largely of really good young writers, but most of them write in the kind of hyperreal style that you didn't care for in Kunkel and Foer. One big exception is the unstoppable and too infrequently heralded greatness of Matthew Klam, who is indeed exactly what you're looking for.
posted by escabeche at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2007

David Mazzotta. ;-)

Business As Usual

Apple Pie
posted by dzot at 8:53 PM on December 14, 2007

(Douglas Coupland is Canadian, which I mention because you specificed Americans.)
posted by loiseau at 12:36 AM on December 15, 2007

An addendum to my recommendations: Like heeeraldo and grumblebee, I thoroughly enjoyed Prep and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, but they're about people in high school and I didn't suggest them for that reason. But they were great books, and I'd recommend them even though they aren't about the 20-something set.
One amazing book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. If someone pressed me to name a favorite, it would be this -- and it does deal with 20-somethings, although it isn't particularly recent and therefore doesn't fit your criteria exactly.
posted by k8lin at 12:38 AM on December 15, 2007

I like Jonathan Tropper's novels especially The Book of Joe. All his novels are about 30-something Americans and are hugely readable but not fluff.

I also loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt but hated The Little Friend, her next novel.
posted by essexjan at 1:57 AM on December 15, 2007

If you're open to graphic novel suggestions, you may enjoy the work of Adrian Tomine.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:10 AM on December 15, 2007

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green is teen fiction, but finally for me (age 27), someone young enough to know what it was really like when I was a teen is writing it. Very funny, definitely under 40, but I don't know if it's what you're looking for.

And I only looked at your name after I wrote this, to see if you'd posted any follow-ups to your original post, but it looks like you'd like this book for other reasons as well.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:09 AM on December 15, 2007

Seconding Jonathan Lethem. You Don't Love Me Yet is good also for what you're looking for, but I enjoy everything he's written.
posted by waraw at 10:08 AM on December 15, 2007

The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud? I haven't read it, but it was recommended to me.
posted by salvia at 10:08 AM on December 15, 2007

Seconding The Emperor's Children.
posted by k8lin at 11:55 AM on December 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. Lots to explore here. I feel a big Abebooks.com order coming on. :)
posted by toomuchkatherine at 9:25 AM on December 17, 2007

Update on my suggestion, now I heard that The Emperor's Children is not good. (If I ever read it myself, I'll offer an opinion that is actually informed.)
posted by salvia at 9:34 PM on January 2, 2008

« Older Brain in 2nd Gear   |   How to keep my calendars synchronised? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.