Paul's Reviews > 20 Under 40: Stories from The New Yorker

20 Under 40 by Deborah Treisman
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Jun 01, 11

Read from August 28, 2010 to June 01, 2011

A good cross-section of fiction today. The stories here, like all New Yorker fiction, have strong voices, are rigorously edited, and carry themselves with a quiet and sometimes powerful subtlety. But there's that "sometimes." Reading all of these together brings out what they have in common--the problems of the literary New Yorker stories.

Short fiction still lives in the very long shadow of writers like James Joyce: slow moving plots that serve mainly to set up and examine a character or two, creating a subtle, usually ambiguous portrait of a person. The tales end almost uniformly on a purposefully incomplete or very slightly wry note. After reading several of these kinds of stories, the over-the-top breathless style of Gary Shteyngart comes as a breath of fresh air.

But even within that framework, the strength of the selections stands out. In addition to the Shteyngart, I particularly enjoyed the unreliable narrator of Dinaw Mengestu's story as well as the bleak, but unnervingly precise characterization of Yiyun Li. I'm sure another reader would pick out completely different favorites.

When the stories manage to grip your emotions, though, they do it firmly. And when they don't, they're still truly admirable pieces of writing on their own.
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