That The New Yorker’s list of 20Under40 was kind of a random pick for me to try to redirect my habit of ignoring similar lists (yes, I even mentioned Granta’s lists) in the past?
You know, those lists of Snappy Young Writers to Watch and you don’t watch? And then years later you’re reading them, loving their work, and saying “Why hadn’t I heard of them before?”
That’s the point.
But it wasn’t until today that I started poking around on the net and came across Granta’s 2007 list of Best Young American Novelists to Watch. And there is ZZ Packer’s name. And seven other names that also appear on TNY’s 20Under40 List.
You see, if I had adopted this habit sooner, I’d actually have less to read right now. (Er, don’t try to figure that one: it’s not mathematically true, but there’s still something to this thought.)
Anyway, I wouldn’t have needed that list to know that a lot of people thought ZZ Packer worth reading; I’d had her name in my TBR notebook (when it was still a spiral-bound thing) even before Riverhead published Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (when “Brownies” was published in “Harper’s”: I still have that issue).
And, in case you’re the kind of reader who prefers novels to short stories, you’ll probably be happy to hear that “Dayward” is an excerpt from a novel. (An earlier excerpt appeared in that Granta issue that I should have read.)
And you’ll want to know more about Lazarus for sure. Especially if you first met him, as I did, in this story:
“Of course he and Mary Celeste were good and free by law and by poor dead Abe Lincoln himself, but Kittredge and his dogs came after them anyway, and no amount of pepper that Lazarus shook behind him would sneeze them off.”
Yes, it’s a chase scene.
“He would simply have to do something — however foolish and foolhardy — as he could not leave a deaf sister, his charge, up in a tree, liable to fall at any moment.”
And what he does? It’s unforgettable.
PS Here‘s ZZ Packer’s Q&A.