How Granta Launched the Cultural Obsession With “Best Young Novelist” Lists – Slate Magazine
Over the years, that first 20-under-40 list became rather legendary, and it’s not hard to see why. Among the winners Granta picked were Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Martin Amis, Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Graham Swift, and Salman Rushdie (although Rushdie was a bit of a gimme, since he’d already won the Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children.) The journal’s follow-up 10 years later was nearly as impressive, featuring Jeanette Winterson, Alan Hollinghurst, Hanif Kureishi, and Louis de Bernières, who would, in the following year, go on to publish the international bestseller Captain Corelli’s Mandolin after several commentators complained that he was one of the list’s most obscure honorees. The 2003 list included Rachel Cusk, Sarah Waters, Hari Kunzru, Monica Ali, David Mitchell, and Zadie Smith (another gimme—White Teeth came out in 2001). The journal branched out and began publishing an American version in 1996. Lists of the best and the brightest young novelists, the literary equivalent of hot stock tips, became Granta’s brand.