The Year’s Most Welcome Cultural Newbies

  • Adam Levin’s 1030-page debut novel, The Instructions, has the author being compared to David Foster Wallace by way of Philip Roth, who actually turns up as a character in the book. Now everyone seems hungry for what he’ll produce next. Hopefully it won’t take the decade it took to produce this puppy.

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  • Chef Robbins has been cooking for years, so her Food and Wine “best new chef” award was a tad overdue. As head chef at A Voce, she’s doing great things for food New York, both uptown and downtown. “She didn’t come here to mess around,” Times critic Sam Sifton wrote in his review of the restaurants.

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  • The author the Village Voice hailed (?) as “the Best New York Writer Young Enough to Make You Slit Your Wrists,” the youngest member of The New Yorker's much heralded "20 Under 40" list of today's best fiction writers, was just 24, but her short story “Blue Water Djinn” proved she has the goods.

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  • Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s children blew up this year: Jaden starred in the blockbuster remake of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan, a box office hit, and Willow signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, debuting her insanely catchy single “Whip My Hair” later in the year. Hate them or, as we do, love them, these kids are going to be famous for a long time.

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  • A mere 22, James Blake is a classically trained musician who has devoted himself to electronic soul music, earning universal renown from those who have had the good fortune of discovering him.

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  • British artist Ryan Gander received a major boost this year when he received Guggenheim and Public Art Fund money for his work The Happy Prince, a gorgeous and instantly likeable riff on Oscar Wilde's children's story.

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  • Has it really only been a year since Sleigh Bells made their debut at CMJ? The universally adored band already feels like an established act, carried by aggressive lo-fi hooks and Alexis Krauss's terrific vocals. The Brooklyn duo has been categorized as both “noise pop,” and “dance punk,” neither of which implies a massive following, but whatever the formula is, it's working.

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  • Winter’s Bone was easily one of 2010’s best films, due in no small part to Lawrence’s riveting performance as a noir hero, searching for her father in an ugly rural landscape ruined by drugs. She also scored major roles in the next X-Men movie and Jodie Foster’s Mel Gibson movie, The Beaver, though whether that one ever hits theaters remains to be seen. Another reason to dislike Mel Gibson!

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  • On hearing Miss Monáe for the first time, a listener might be moved to ask himself why he's never heard her before...and then to buy her album, The ArchAndroid. The disc shot to number 17 on the Billboard 200, and her videos for the singles “Cold War” and “Tightrope” are required viewing.

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  • The first two Spider-Man movies were great and all, but they were held back artistically by the performances of catatonic star Tobey Maguire. He’s out and Garfield’s in for the 2012 reboot, which has already rocketed the newcomer to superstardom. He’s earned it! He was great in The Social Network and if you saw him in Never Let Me Go, you know that the kid can sell an anguished scream.

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