20 Not in the ’20 Under 40′

Not yet published the last time Eustace Tilley weighed in on the future of American literature, these writers, many of them now New Yorker darlings, have produced books that will likely define the decade just passed and are just entering the prime of their careers.


- Dave Eggers (pictured), 40, What Is the What

- Aleksandar Hemon, 45, Love and Obstacles

- Heidi Julavits, 42, The Uses of Enchantment

- Sam Lipsyte, 41, The Ask

- Colson Whitehead, 40, Sag Harbor

Getty Images

Although they may have outsold all 20 of their anointed peers, these young novelists sit a few rungs too low on the brow scale to qualify for the quality-lit game. They can take heart, however, from the example of Stephen King. After decades languishing on the best-seller lists, Mr. King finally landed a short story in the magazine in 1994, at the age of 47. Luckily, they all have their royalties and movie deals to fall back on.

- Nicola Kraus, 35, and Emma McLaughlin, 36, The Nanny Diaries

- Stephenie Meyer (pictured), 36, Twilight

- Cecily von Ziegesar, 39, Gossip Girl

- Lauren Weisberger, 33, The Devil Wears Prada

Getty Images

Most novelists have day jobs, primarily nowadays as creative-writing teachers on sedate campuses. These authors have broken the mold, working in Hollywood, in D.C. and in the blogosphere. Their accomplishments in those realms have so far outstripped their literary fame.

- Blogger Ana Marie Cox (pictured), 37, Dog Days

- Sex blogger Jessica Cutler, 31, The Washingtonienne

- Actor James Franco, 32, "Just Before the Black," in Esquire

- TV writer and political offspring Kristin Gore, 32, Sammy's House

- Actor Ethan Hawke, 39, Ash Wednesday

Getty Images

They crossed boundaries-usually a praiseworthy goal for an artist-and challenged conventional notions of authorship. In a sense, you could think of them as avant-gardists. Three of them showed that fiction didn't have to be called fiction; it could be called a "memoir" or a "newspaper report" or The New Republic. Another proved that age and identity are but illusions. Still another appropriated the work of others and made it her own-precocious for an undergraduate. The culture would not abide them.

- Margaret B. Jones (a.k.a. Margaret Seltzer), 35, Love and Consequences

- JT Leroy, 29 (a.k.a. Laura Albert, 44), Labour

- Stephen Glass, 37, The Fabulist

- Jayson Blair (pictured), 34, The New York Times

- Kaavya Viswanathan, 23, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

Getty Images

We noticed you're using an ad blocker.

We get it: you like to have control of your own internet experience.
But advertising revenue helps support our journalism.

To read our full stories, please turn off your ad blocker.
We'd really appreciate it.

How Do I Whitelist Observer?

How Do I Whitelist Observer?

Below are steps you can take in order to whitelist Observer.com on your browser:

For Adblock:

Click the AdBlock button on your browser and select Don't run on pages on this domain.

For Adblock Plus on Google Chrome:

Click the AdBlock Plus button on your browser and select Enabled on this site.

For Adblock Plus on Firefox:

Click the AdBlock Plus button on your browser and select Disable on Observer.com.

Then Reload the Page