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The First Sentence Of The New Yorker’s “Top 20 Over 40”

June 4, 2010

A few days ago, The New Yorker announced it’s list of the top 20 writers under 40 years old to look out for. Now, I wasn’t familiar with a whole lot of people on that list, so, I decided I should get familiar with each of their most recent works. But really, how much time do you think I have, people? Enough time to read 20 stories/books? I don’t think so. Therefore I decided to assemble the first sentence of each writer’s most recent story or book (some  stories I couldn’t access without subscription, so forgive me), and then choose from there which one I wanted to pursue. Please, help me out, guys! Help me choose what I should read next, or at least help me choose which sentence is the most intriguing out of the 20 supposedly most intriguing authors of the decade:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche: “The first time our house was robbed, it was our neighbor Osita who climbed in through the dining room window and stole our TV, our VCR and the Purple Rain and Thriller videotapes my father had brought back from America.” — “Cell One” from The Thing Around Your Neck

Chris Adrian: “It took them both a long time to understand that the boy was sick, though she would point out that she had been the first to notice that he was unhappy, and had sought to remedy his discontent with sweeter treats and more delightful distractions.” — “A Tiny Feast”

Daniel Alarcon: “They took Norma off the air that Tuesday morning because a boy was dropped off at the station” — Lost City Radio

David Bezmogis: “‘Some businessmen’ was how Skinny Zyama had described the two gangsters from New Jersey.” — “The Russian Riviera”

Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum: “Many of Mr. Hempel’s students were performing in the show that evening, but to her own secret disappointment, she would not be appearing.” — Mrs. Hempel Chronicles

Joshua Ferris: “It was the cruelest winter.” — The Unnamed

Jonathan Safran Foer: “What about a teakettle?” — Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

Nell Freudenberger: “On Easter Sunday of 2005, my grandmother died, of very old age.” — “Grandmother’s House”

Rivka Galchen: “Some people would consider Jacob a physicist, some would consider him a philosopher or simply a “time expert,” though I tend to think of him in less reverent terms.” — “The Region Of Unlikeliness”

Nicole Krauss: “When they write my obituary.” — The History Of Love: A Novel

Yiyun Li: “When the waitress came to take the order, she asked how Suchen was doing with the smoke.” — “Alone”

Dinaw Mengestu: “At eight o’ clock Joseph and Kenneth come into the store.” —  The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Phillip Meyer: “Isaac’s mother was dead five years but he hadn’t stopped thinking about her.” — American Rust

C.E. Morgan: “She had never lived in a house and now, seeing the thing, she was no longer sure she wanted to.” — All The Living: A Novel

Tea Obreht: “Neal had believed all the myths about hyenas.” — “The Laugh”

Z.Z. Packer: “By our second day at Camp Crescendo, the girls in my Brownie troop deiced to kick the asses of each and every girl in Brownie Troop 909.” — Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

Karen Russell: “Stage 1: The initial period is one in which everything is new, exciting, and interesting for your students.” — “St. Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised By Wolves” from eponymous story collection

Salvatore Scibona: “He was five feet one inch tall in street shoes, bearlike in his round and jowly face, hulking in his chest and shoulders, nearly just as stout around the middle, but hollow in the hips, and lacking proper can to sit on (though he was hardly ever known to sit) and wee at the ankles, and girlish at his tiny feet, a man in the shape of a lightbulk” — The End: A Novel

Gary Shteyngart: “I am Misha Borisovich Vainberg, age thirty, a grossly overweight man with small, deeply set blue eyes, a pretty Jewish beak that brings to mind the most distinguished breed of parrot, and lips so delicate you would want to wipe them with the naked back of your hand” — Absurdistan

Wells Tower: “Bob woke up on his face.” — “The Brown Coast” from story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

So…what should I read? (Let it be admitted that I’ve already read Karen Russell’s debut story collection and deemed it fabulous. Also, I am a big Z.Z. Packer fan and won’t let you forget it.)


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