America’s Next Top Novel

 

AS OF MONDAY, Ms. Treisman said, the magazine had already bought some pieces that came to them as submissions for “20 under 40,” but editors have not indicated to anyone whether those pieces will be published in a regular issue of The New Yorker or whether they will be on the list. Sixteen of the selections have been finalized, and four are still being settled. “No one has been told for sure yet, though probably 14 or 15 of them know that there’s a very strong likelihood,” said Ms. Treisman, adding that some publishers have called asking when a decision would come down because they wanted to mention their author’s inclusion in sales meetings.

Work on the list began back in January, when Ms. Treisman sat down with fiction editors Willing Davidson and Cressida Leyshon and drew up a sheet of potential names. Then she emailed literary agents and editors at publishing houses and asked for recommendations, with the understanding that people would mostly “nominate” authors they work with and have an interest in. Once the two lists were combined-there was, predictably, a lot of overlap-Ms. Treisman and her people sought out every word of published material by those authors and set about reading them. In the end, they chose around 40 finalists and at that point asked them to submit any unpublished material that could run in the magazine.

Mr. Remnick has worked closely with the fiction department throughout the entire process, Ms. Treisman said.

“He’s been involved in okaying our choices,” she said. “I’ve given him pieces of fiction that we’re considering and talked to him about the writers. Some of them he’s already very familiar with, and, for the most part, he’s been as excited as we are about them.”

According to Mr. Remnick, there will be wild cards-authors who have yet to find large audiences for their work, and some who might not even have a book out at all. It is these authors, rather than the gimmes, who render the list a significant publishing act.

“What I hope an exercise like this does,” he said, “in addition to pushing that much more forward names that are obvious or semi-obvious, is [introduce] people who have had minimal exposure, maybe have had one story here and maybe didn’t, but that the fiction department in particular-and I along with them-really want to put in front of you.”

The emphasis placed on introducing new talent to the world is in line with The New Yorker‘s priorities as they are expressed elsewhere. When an unpublished novel is excerpted in the magazine, for instance, the fact that the text is part of a forthcoming book is not mentioned anywhere but in the contributor’s page.