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Literary Idol

Discussion of, and the engagement in, the unearthing of pleasantly surprising books, including a gimmicky showdown among the city's most promising up-and-comers, and a critic-compiled list of 60 criminally underrated novels, and more.

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Illustration: Jason Lee. Photograph by Serge Krouglikoff/Zefa/Corbis  

The Best Novels You’ve Never Read
Sixty-one critics reveal their favorite underrated book of the past ten years.

The Future Canon
Which novels—and novelists—from the past several years will be taught in 50 years’ time?

A New York Writer’s Catch-22
This town is rife with editors looking for new talent, but sometimes talent develops best when there’s no one to find it.

The Stars of Tomorrow
We asked writing teachers to single out especially promising students. Then—our tacky idea—you vote on them.

The Early Word on Summer’s Debut Novels
Who will soar? Who might sink?

And the Last Word Goes to...
Five writers on how they get by with a little help from their friends (and Playboy).

Yes, the contest model has already invaded publishing—from last year’s Good Morning America memoir-off to a new online contest that has stock-pickers wagering on a book’s success. But none of them, of course, tell us if these writers are any good. So we decided to play a different game: Let’s imagine, for a moment, that publishing is a meritocracy. With that in mind, let’s ask some of the city’s leading creative-writing teachers to select one of their especially promising students. And then, because we all know how much power book critics have these days, let’s allow them some literary revenge by asking them to name the greatest underrated book of the past ten years. And because we live in the real world, let’s see what New York’s commercial pressures really do to talented writers, through the eyes of Peter Carey, head of Hunter College’s writing program, as well as Gary Shteyngart. And while we’re at it, let’s have a real contest (because we all know how fair those are …). Which one of those promising ­creative-­writing students do you think has what it takes? There’s no number to call; just click here.


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