What Does It Mean to Be a Young Writer Today?
Take our own Ken Baumann. He’s twenty, and already toying with a style, voice, and rhythm all his own–see the newest New York Tyrant for proof. His work is at once strange and familiar, careful and mindful without constraining a sense of freedom which announces the promise of novelty, of a literature which is no longer merely literature. If any of that makes any sense to anyone. What I mean to say is, Ken is a young–very young, college-aged–prose stylist. Perhaps that is a rare feat. Perhaps it is not. But not often does an artist so young fulfill the promise of youth by making it new.
Take Zachary German. He’s twenty-one, I believe, and while he indeed belongs to a certain class of writers, his style, at a very original pace, moves toward a terminal space, a degree-zero. His work has much to say about contemporary art, culture, and values, on both a level of doing and being. In many ways, he walks the talk of a young Camus. He’s twenty-one. How?
I’m nineteen. I strive for an immediate stylism in my work. Whether or not I’m successful I cannot say.
Rimbaud. John Cheever, I think, published his first story in The New Yorker at age nineteen. There have been others, though I’m not thinking straight right now, for a number of reasons, so if anyone feels inclined to drop more names, please drop.
What is the significance of reaching an impressive control of voice at so young of an age? Are young writers doomed to perpetual adolescence, or might each one grow or stagnate on a singular basis? Do young writers matter qua young writers–should they be differentiated, praised or damned as young? Is there something entitled and overconfident about publishing–about engaging in a conversation as old as language itself–when you, as I do, still rely on your parents to eat? If you aren’t so young, what were you writing when you were my age? When did you come to writing? Is youth a dirty word?
What does it mean to be young?