The Pen Club: Our Generation’s Preppiest Writers


There are many writers, editors, and publishers featured in

, Lisa Birnbach’s follow-up to the original blue blood Bible, 1980’s

. In a chapter entitled “The True Pantheon,” Birnbach sets her laurel wreath around the privileged heads of Ben Bradlee, Alfred A. Knopf, Paul Rudnick, Eric Segal, and even Dr. Seuss. And, bien sûr, John Updike, Edith Wharton, and F. Scott Fitzgerald also get their dues. But who are the preppy writers of Generations X and Y? Who will carry on the gin-soaked torch of those gone before? Here’s a partial list of prep-schoolers, Ivy Leaguers, and dapper literati who are turning out some of the most exciting American fiction on the current lit scene.

Jonathan Safran Foer The son of a lawyer and public relations professional, Foer was born in D.C. and prepped at Georgetown Day School before studying creative writing under Joyce Carol Oates at that preppiest of institutions, Princeton. We may think of him as one of the Brooklyn hipster Jonathans, but let’s be real: he lives in Park Slope.

Marisha Pessl Every prep school story worth its salt centers on a moody, possibly brilliant outsider — someone the kids can look up to. Marisha Pessl gave us an updated Holden Caulfield in the brainy and boho Blue Van Meer (great name!), the teen heroine of her novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics . Pessl spent her own teenage years at the Asheville School in North Carolina, a private co-ed boarding school, before earning her degree in English Literature from Barnard College. She even worked as a financial consultant and married a hedge fund manager before becoming a rising star in the lit world. The writer even once claimed that she takes the “John Updikian view” of fiction writing.

Curtis Sittenfeld Sittenfeld quite literally wrote the book. Prep , with its cute pink and green grosgrain ribbon belt cover is not only a fantastic read, but it the perfect book to bring along to the beach club — it’ll even match your new Lilly bikini! Sittenfeld, the daughter of an investment adviser and art history teacher at a private school attended one of the nation’s most elite boarding schools — the Groton School — before earning her degree from Stanford. She later taught at the private DC prep school St. Albans School before becoming a full-time writer. Plenty of prep-inspiration to go around. We’re awaiting the sequel Prep, possibly something about the Ivy League?

Lorin Stein Lorin Stein follows in the footsteps of a long-anointed member of the Prep Pantheon, George A. Plimpton, as the editor of The Paris Review . Before he came to the Review, Stein was cultivating such talent as Jeffrey Euginedes and Jonathan Franzen at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. According to New York Magazine, Stein “cuts a tapered, aquiline figure, favoring J. Press ties, made-to-measure Lord Willy’s shirts, and Clarks.” But he’s also known around town for his masculine swagger in the often too-twee publishing world. A bit of Hemingway and a dash of dandy? Ah, prep perfection.

Jonathan Dee Jonathan Dee, a former Yalie and Paris Review alumnus, pulled an Edith Wharton with his recent novel The Privileges , an insider look at the messy lives of high-flying financiers. Dee’s work has invited comparisons to the original, the master, the be-all and end-all of prep-lit, Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s enough for entrée into the pantheon.

Sloane Crosley Crosley graduated from Connecticut College and began her career as a publicist for Vintage Books, where she worked with legends in prep, such as Jay McInerney. In 2008, she published her own collection of humorous essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake , which quickly became a New York Times bestseller. Her name is Sloane, she confesses to having “really shiny hair” and, hell, she’s even pictured in Birnbach’s book (check out “Breton” on page 96).

Adam Haslett The Massachusetts-born Haslett spent a good deal of time in Oxfordshire, England, in his youth, before graduating from Swarthmore. He went on to get his MFA from the University of Iowa — and, you know, picked up a Yale Law degree along the way — before publishing first novel, Union Atlantic, which has a cast of characters to rival any Wharton tome. Plus, he knows how to work the button-down and sweater combination.

Jeffrey Euginedes While a shade older than the rest of the crew, Euginedes still boasts some serious prep cred. He grew up in tony Grosse Pointe and attended the private University Liggett School for high school before heading off to Brown. In 1993, he set out to write about his upscale neighborhood in the grand tradition of Updike or Cheever and the result, The Virgin Suicides , became an instant hit. A Publishers Weekly review of his later novel Middlesex also noted that Euginedes possesses an, “extraordinary sensitivity to the mores of our leafier suburbs.” Takes one to know one.

Daniel Alarcón Although Alarcón was born in Peru, he grew up in the country-club-sprinkled city of Birmingham, Alabama, where he went to school at the private Indian Springs School. After earning his BA in anthropology at Columbia, Alarcón returned to Peru on a Fulbright Scholarship, rounding out the perfect curriculum for any young prep (see the original Preppy Handbook, where Lisa Birnbach deems fellowships a perfect conduit from college to career). Alarcón looks to Peru and his Latino heritage in most of his novels and stories, but we’re sure some piece of his heart will always be at Indian Springs.

Kathryn Stockett Stockett is the Southern belle of the group. She grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and attended the University of Alabama where she earned her BA in Creative Writing, and was a member of the Phi Mu Sorority. She then worked in magazine publishing in New York, a perfectly acceptable career choice for any belle in the big city (see page 117 of True Prep), before taking to writing full time. Stockett says that the inspiration for her breakout novel The Help came from her own relationship with her nanny growing up.