American writers don’t have the same kind of fame that they used to have. I bet that most people can’t even name many working American writers besides John Grisham and Toni Morrison. But there are so many writers who are crafting excellent books right under our noses. Here are four that are easily accessible at your local indie bookshop:
Aimee Bender. Aimee Bender is a surrealist writer with a penchant for the blending the everyday with the absurd. In her short stories, exemplified by her 2005 collection Willful Creatures, she depicts the treatment of tiny men who are held as pets (for example), and in her most recent book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010), her main character can taste the feelings of the bakers or cooks who made her food. Bender lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at the University of Southern California.
George Saunders (pictured). George Saunders is one of the rare writers who is as talented as a fiction writer as an essayist. His collection of essays, The Braindead Megaphone, critiques everything from American immigration policy to mass media consumption and the so-called “Buddha Boy” in Nepal. The collection is one of the few in my recent memory that I actually laughed aloud. In addition to this success, Saunders writes mostly absurdist stories and teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Syracuse University.
Jonathon Safran Foer. Jonathon Safran Foer is arguably the most famous of all young American writers, and I think a lot of people unfairly hate him for that. But I get it. If you’ve paid your writing dues for years and years and some twenty/thirty-something gets movies made based off of his books that star Elijah Wood and Tom Hanks, I’d be pissed off too. But his books are whimsical and readable and combine a lot of unusual materials that wouldn’t be considered pretentious if Safran Foer weren’t so young and famous. Like I stated earlier, his book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has been made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. It looks really good and comes out in December.
Gary Shteyngart. Shteyngart lived his early life in St. Petersburg, Russia and has used both the absurdities of his home country and American exceptionalism as fodder for his novels, Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story. Like Foer, Shteyngart often places a mixed up version of himself into his work—or at least his own autobiographical details—making it difficult to tell where his fiction ends and his real life begins.