New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers


New York has ever been the center of the American literary universe — the city of Whitman, of Edith Wharton, of every bar in Greenwich village — and though the legendary metropolis has lost a little edge and a lot of grime since Henry Miller lived here, it is still home to and creative fodder for countless contemporary writers, each vying for their own place in its robust literary history.

As you may have heard, one of New York’s most legendary contemporary writers, Philip Roth, recently announced his retirement, which has left us thinking about the state of the city’s literary landscape — and where it might go from here. To that end, we’ve taken a look at some of New York City’s most important writers, from Roth’s contemporaries to his possible successors, from those who have already been established by the passage of many years of excellence to younger writers of note who may still either cement or demolish their reputations. In making our list, we’ve chosen writers and journalists in the NYC area with serious literary merit, taking into consideration their legacy, their publishing history, and their cultural relevance across the board. Find our ranked top 100 list, as well as interviews with many of these distinguished authors, after the jump, and get to quibbling (as we know you will) in the comments.

Click through for Flavorwire’s list of New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers

100. Jay McInerney

Jay McInerney broke onto the literary scene with his 1984 novel Bright Lights, Big City, but it was his bad boy persona and scandalous personal life that kept him in the spotlight. “If there is a way in which I have had a more difficult time with monogamy and a quiet life than the average person, I think that, you know, the success of my first book was very disruptive,” he told the Guardian in a 2000 interview. “I felt incredibly lucky at the time and for a long time afterwards, but it unsettled my life in a way that I only now realize. It opened so many doors, and I got so much attention that it couldn’t help but spoil me somewhat.” In more recent decades, McInerney has shifted his focus from fiction to wine writing, and is currently a regular wine columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

Photo by Marion Ettlinger.

99. Ariana Reines

Ariana Reines wrote her first poetry collection, The Cow, while living above the Peter Luger Steakhouse on Broadway in Williamsburg. The book won the Fence Books’ Alberta Prize; since then, she’s published two more books of poetry (Coeur de Lion and Mercury), a play, and a translation of the work of Tiqqun.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Jeni Olin, aka Truck Darling.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Writing is a dangerous addiction and can fuck with a person’s sense of time. To be prolific is a curse. I wish him luck with his abstinence, and I hope he has fun.

What’s next for you?

Divinity school, I guess.

98. Keith Gessen

When it comes to new literary magazines, very few have struck a cultural nerve like n+1, the brainchild of Keith Gessen and his four co-founders (among them, Chad Harbach and Benjamin Kunkel). The intellectually minded (if not esoteric) magazine has since attracted a devoted following, and just as many detractors. Gessen is also the author of the novel All the Sad Young Literary Men (which was praised by Jonathan Franzen), and quite impressively, he’s translated Svetlana Alexievich and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya into English. He also recently wrote about his experience as a participant in an Occupy Wall Street protest that got him arrested.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Can I name more than one? Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Carla Blumenkranz, Emily Witt.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I think it’s a Ted Solotaroff essay in which a group of young “artistic” men who just moved to the city keep seeing some guy in shirt-sleeves typing in his small East Village apartment every time they head out for a night on the town, and then he’s still typing when they head in. What a loser! And then it turns out to be Roth. That was a pretty good run he had.

What’s next for you?

In a few weeks n+1 and Ugly Duckling are publishing a book I’ve been working on editing and co-translating for the past year — Kirill Medvedev’s It’s No Good. It’s awesome.

97. Kurt Andersen

A veteran journalist and elite name among New York’s highest circles, Kurt Andersen co-founded Spy magazine with Graydon Carter (who is the editor of Vanity Fair) and for years has written for Time and The New Yorker, among many other publications. But so what? There are many lucky, smart people who write for respected magazines. Andersen stands out because he does so much more: his novels Turn of the Century, a media send-up, and Heyday, an award-winning work of historical fiction, were both national bestsellers. He is a renowned public radio host of Studio 360 and the new variety hour Kings County, about Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife, the writer Anne Kreamer. In 2010, Fortune included Andersen in a group of great minds consulted to predict the future of print. He was editor of New York Magazine for a short time, and left behind his wonderful list of verboten words, which NY Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindren shared last year for all to enjoy.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

If someone nominated for a National Book Award counts as emerging, Rene Steinke.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Filled with admiration.

What’s next for you?

Another novel.

Photo by Thomas Hart Shelby.

96. Jami Attenberg

Though Attenberg is a Chicago native, she is now very much known as a Brooklyn writer. The author’s earliest work came out in the form of zines and a 2003 chapbook, Deli Life. Her debut collection Instant Love was published in 2006, followed by the novel The Kept Man in 2006. Attenberg’s most recent publication, The Middlesteins, was just recently released by Grand Central Publishing, and has been met with unequivocal praise (it is, among other things, one of Amazon’s picks for best books of the year). She writes essays and criticism for publications such as The New York Times, Print, Nylon, Slate, and Bookforum. Attenberg’s work has also appeared in numerous anthologies such as Sex for America, Future Misbehavior, and Rumpus Women: Volume I.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

I really adored Kathleen Alcott’s debut novel, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, this year. On the non-fiction side, Rosie Schaap has a wonderful book, Drinking With Men, coming out in January. I think that book is going to knock it out of the park.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Oh, let the man retire. Leave him alone already. He deserves a nap along with the rest of us.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a novel set on the Bowery from the 1920s-1940s. It’s the fictional memoir of a real person, Mazie Phillips, a boozy, bawdy movie theater proprietress who spent her nights helping the homeless. But first, a nap.

95. Hannah Tinti

The co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Story, a literary magazine dedicated to spotlighting the work of just one writer each month, Hannah Tinti also happens to be a noted literary talent in her own right. She was a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway award for her 2004 short story collection, Animal Characters and, more recently, her debut novel The Good Thief was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. In a 2010 interview with The New York Times , Tinti said she was working on “a bit of a sequel” to The Good Thief involving some of the same characters, as well as a love story. “I keep waiting for one of these books to storm the castle and take over, but it hasn’t happened yet. So far they are co-existing peaceably.”

94. Darin Strauss

A Long Island native, novelist and memoirist Darin Strauss has written many critically-acclaimed books, including Chang and Eng, about the famous conjoined twins, and 2008’s More Than it Hurts You. However, it was his book Half A Life (2010), that established him as a writer who draws from his own difficult past — the novel, which started as an excerpt aired on This American Life, deals elegantly and painfully with the aftermath of a disastrous traffic accident in which Strauss struck and killed a fellow classmate (“Half my life ago, I killed a girl,” the novel begins harrowingly). Strauss lives in Brooklyn and currently teaches at NYU.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Not sure how to define this: Adam Wilson, maybe?

What do you think of Philip Roth retiring?

I think it’s a short con; he’ll get the attention of the Nobel people, win, then crank out brilliant work again.

What’s next for you?

Finishing up a co-written young-adult adventure novel with David Lipsky. Writing a novel for Random House.

Photo by Robert Birn.

93. Amy Waldman

Amy Waldman is a writer and noted journalist, writing for the New York Times for eight years. She began as a metro desk reporter, but after a time, she became co-chief of the South Asia bureau and covered the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, winning a Pulitzer for her collaborative series “Portraits of Grief.” After the attacks, she began to write about the issues surrounding the War on Terror. Her first novel, The Submission, tackles the topic of the fallout from the attacks as a Muslim wins the contest for the 9/11 memorial; it was shortlisted for the Guardian’s first book prize. Waldman currently lives in Brooklyn.

92. Sapphire

Sapphire (Romona Lofton) was a remedial reading teacher in Harlem before enrolling in Brooklyn College’s MFA program. While she’s probably best known for her 1996 novel Push (which was later adapted as the Oscar-winning film Precious), Sapphire was already a fixture of New York City’s slam poetry scene, self-publishing collections like Meditations of the Rainbow and American Dreams. Her most recent work, 2011’s The Kid, was a sequel to Push that focused on Precious’ troubled and mentally ill son.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Suheir Hammad

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I think that’s an unwriterly thing to do!

What’s next for you?

A new novel and poetry.

91. Todd Gitlin

By now, we all know Todd Gitlin for his writing on Occupy Wall Street, and for good reason. He’s been singled out for examining areas of the movement that most mainstream journalists missed. His recent book Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street (originally published as an e-book) is as close to a comprehensive text for the Occupy phenomenon as there is likely to be. Gitlin has written extensively on mass media and politics for dozens of publications ranging from The New York Times to The New Republic, and his 1980 book The Whole World Is Watching is already required reading on mass media and social movements. Where does Gitlin stand now? We think his writing on Occupy will be studied by generations of scholars to come.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Teju Cole

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I respect his decision to close out his oeuvre; I honor what I take to be his pain; I wish him a long & joyful life.

What’s next for you?

I’m at the beginning of the middle, or the middle of the beginning, of a long novel.

90. Adrian Tomine

When it comes to comics, Adrian Tomine is one of a select few graphic novelists whose admirers stretch far beyond fanboy territory. His comics have a literary bent — in fact, Jonathan Lethem once compared the pitch-perfect Shortcomings to Alice Munro. He’s probably best known for his comic series Optic Nerve, and his work also frequently appears in McSweeney’s and The Best American Nonrequired Reading series. On the graphic side of things, you might recognize his illustrations in The New Yorker (the Hurricane Sandy inspired “Undeterred” is just one of the many iconic covers he’s drawn for the magazine), many of which are collected in this year’s beautiful compilationNew York Drawings. We also recommend Scenes From an Impending Marriage, the quirky, personal comic whose elements started out as party favors at Tomine’s wedding.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

If I’ve heard of them, they probably “emerged” long ago.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

As a fan, I’m angry and disappointed. As a struggling writer, I’m deeply envious.

What’s next for you?

An as-yet-untitled book that might be described, with varying degrees of accuracy, as a short story collection, a “graphic novel,” or a long comic book.

89. Elissa Schappell

If you don’t know who Elissa Schappell is, that’s probably because a lot of her work is done behind the scenes. Formerly a senior editor at The Paris Review and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, she’s currently the co-founder of and editor-at-large for Tin House. For her editorial work alone, she deserves our praise and admiration, but we’d also like to highlight her own quirky writing. Her short stories in Use Me and Blueprints for Building Better Girls are wickedly funny, and as The New York Times proclaimed, Schappell is “capable of conveying a Pandora’s box of feeling in a single line.” We couldn’t agree more.

88. Emily Gould

A writer whose public career has only spanned about six years, Emily Gould seems to have lived several complete professional lives in that time. There was her first, high-profile and, in retrospect, more controversial than absolutely necessary stint at Gawker. After quitting that job — and writing about the experience in a New York Times Magazine cover story — Gould published And the Heart Says Whatever (2010), a collection of brutally honest personal essays in which she boldly (and sometimes frustratingly) refuses to moralize or draw conclusions about her experiences. Next up was the launch of Emily Books in the fall of 2011. A collaboration between Gould, who worked in publishing before jumping ship for Gawker, and her friend Ruth Curry, Emily Books is a digital publisher that has released ebook versions of such classics as Ellen Willis’ No More Nice Girls and Eileen Myles’ Inferno, as well as newer titles like Ariana Reines’ excellent 2011 collection Mercury. With its feminist slant and a blog full of insightful commentary on its books, this project is our favorite incarnation yet of a 31-year-old writer whose career has only just begun.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Hard to call these people emerging, since they’ve each published several books, but I worry that people sleep on Gabrielle Bell and Julia Wertz because their writing is accompanied by drawings. They are brilliant writers (also pretty good draw-ers.)

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

It seems fake. The way he’s collaborating on his biography — producing lots and lots of autobiographical writing every day — seems awfully close to working on a book. I don’t doubt some of those detailed notes will end up published, and he likely doesn��t doubt it either. And, good! I am most fond of his books that are explicitly rooted in his own experience. Although my actual favorite is Sabbath’s Theater, so I just contradicted myself. But other than that the Zuckerman books are my favorite. I love them.

What’s next for you?

I have a novel called Friendship out on submission right now. Please pray for me that someone buys it. It’s about outer space. J/k, it’s about two thirtyish best friends and the various ways they ruin their own and each others’ lives. It has a happy ending.

87. Emma Straub

You might remember Emma Straub as the example of NYC literary niceness in a recent Slate piece, and, while it’s true that Straub’s online presence is highly delightful, let’s not forget that she is also an excellent writer. Born in NYC to a very literary family (her parents are writers Peter and Susan Straub), Straub’s own first book, the perfectly wonderful Other People We Married, was published in February. Her first novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, was published this September to wide acclaim. We also had a very nice conversation with her here on Flavorwire. Straub has written for Tin House, The Paris Review, Vogue, among others, and is currently a staff writer for Rookie . She lives in Brooklyn, and works at the wonderful independent Brooklyn bookstore, Book Court.

Who is your favorite emerging New York Writer?

Moi-meme, bien sur. If that’s not allowed, then I choose my dad, who has been emerging since the 1970s, representing the Upper West Side since the 1980s.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I’ve always thought not having to retire was one of the perks of being a novelist, but if Roth feels like he’s said everything he wants and needs to say, then bully for him! I wonder what he’ll do with all of his time. Needlepoint? Disney cruises?

What’s next for you?

A trip to Mallorca to research my next book. I plan to come back with olive oil in my veins instead of blood.

86. Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds is the author of eleven collections of poetry, and many consider her to be one of the greatest living American poets. With the publication of her first book Satan Says in 1980, Olds established the shocking and sexually candid voice for which she was to be known. But though her books are filled with the unflinching language of a confessional poet, Olds remains elegantly terse about her personal life, choosing to share little in interviews. Olds is a New York poet through and through – she’s spent the past forty years in the city, and currently acts as the head of the creative writing department at NYU. Olds also famously declined Laura Bush’s invitation to the National Book Festival in in 2005, writing in The Nation: “I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.”

85. Victor LaValle

Before this year’s breakout novel The Devil in Silver, Victor LaValle was one of New York’s best kept literary secrets. That’s not to say he hasn’t won his fair share of accolades. His debut collection of interconnected stories Slapboxing with Jesus earned him a PEN/Open Award, and his first novel The Ecstatic was a PEN/Faulkner finalist. His second novel Big Machine officially put him on the map, and earned him a devoted sci-fi following. Now, with The Devil in Silver, LaValle may very soon find his largest audience. The creepy, truly original novel set in a Queens mental hospital has been described as “literary horror” by none other than Gary Shteyngart. Also worth checking out, LaValle recently guest edited the inaugural issue of Spook, an edgy new lit mag that gives voice to writers of color.

84. Amy Hempel

A short-story master who has certainly influenced every one of the other fiction writers on this list (like Lipsyte, she was a student of Raymond Carver’s famed editor Gordon Lish), Amy Hempel’s work has appeared in every mainstream publication and high-level lit mag you care about. You’ve likely read “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” or “Harvest,” and if you haven’t, hop to it. Hempel, who mostly pens very, very short stories á la Lydia Davis, tends toward dark humor as well as important animals. In 2006, we received The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, a literary treat (with introduction by Rick Moody!) that belongs next to any similar volumes from towering short story artists like Cheever, Carver or Munro. She has taught everywhere (currently Bennington and Harvard, but in the past Princeton, Sarah Lawrence, and Brooklyn College) and no doubt, within a few years, the most famous writers will be those lucky enough to have worked with her.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Mark Chiusano

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

He’s earned it, but I hope he will reconsider.

What’s next for you?

More dog rescue work.

83. Siddhartha Mukherjee

Born in New Delhi, Mukherjee currently resides in New York, where he works as both scientist and writer. In 2010, Simon & Schuster published Mukherjee’s book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biographer of Cancer, which follows the history of diagnosis and treatment of human cancers from ancient Egypt to contemporary chemotherapy. The book which received a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, a Guardian Prize, and was also nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Time magazine named the book one of the 100 most influential of the past 100 years, and listed Mukherjee as one of its 100 most influential people in 2011. Mukherjee also received the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for The Emperor of All Maladies. He currently teaches as an assistant professor of Medicine at Columbia University, as well as a staff cancer physician at Columbia University Medical Center.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

I find the word “emerging” difficult. What about already emerged and distinguished: Teju Cole?

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I’m saddened by it, but happy for him. It’s like saying goodbye to an old friend with whom you have had many conversations. I’m talking about his books, which mark my childhood and adolescence.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a new non-fiction work.

82. Meghan O’Rourke

Essayist and poet Meghan O’Rourke is a well-known voice in the city’s cultural commentary. In 2000, she was one of the youngest editors in the history of The New Yorker; a few years later, O’Rourke also became poetry editor for The Paris Review and published her first poetry collection Halflife to rave reviews. These days, O’Rourke is the culture critic at Slate, and has published two more books: Once, a poetry collection, and The Long Goodbye, a memoir of dealing with grief and her mother’s death.

81. Karen Russell

Karen Russell’s debut novel Swamplandia! made waves when it landed on the Pulitzer shortlist in 2012. Though the award was not given that year, the book’s irresistible combination of outlandish Florida elements – and the tender family story of some Ohioans masquerading as Native Americans in a shabby amusement park in the Everglades – made Russell memorable to many, and she topped lists of important writers that year. Russell is also the author of St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a short-story collection, and her third book will be released in January 2013. She is a writer-in-residence at Bard College and continues to live and write in New York.

80. David Grann

Every piece of longform investigative magic that David Grann writes for The New Yorker is like a novella; his stories manage to capture love and horror, life and death each time, typically against a backdrop of intrigue. The magazine goes to Grann to answer questions like, “How did this come to be?” (“The Brand,” about the Aryan Brotherhood, “Inside Dope,” about Mark Halperin and the political media) and, “What makes this person tick?” (“The Squid Hunter;” “Stealing Time,” about Rickey Henderson). Every magazine journalist is in awe of Grann and any that says otherwise is lying. Seemingly able to pull off anything from sportswriting to murder analysis, Grann had been writing for The New Yorker a few years before his first book came out and truly cemented his reputation. The Lost City of Z, which details Percy Fawcett’s trip to find a potential Atlantis-like civilization hidden in the Amazon, was on every Best Books of the Year list in 2009 and serves as a terrific example of the type of New Journalism (full immersion, deeply reported, with the author as a character in his or her own narrative) that Tom Wolfe spearheaded decades ago.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

He has left behind one of the greatest bodies of work of any American writer, and so his presence will always be felt: there will always be Goodbye, Columbus and The Ghost Writer and American Pastoral.

What’s next for you?

I’ve recently started researching a new book about an early twentieth century American crime — one that has largely been forgotten but had a profound impact on the country.

79. Mark Doty

Mark Doty’s nuanced and electric free verse has earned him a place among New York’s most accomplished poets. His 1995 volume Atlantis is an emotionally searing collection of poems about dealing with the effects of his partner’s AIDS diagnosis and the community around them – a subject which he revisited in the memoir Heaven’s Coast. Doty has also written the elegiac memoir Dog Years, about the subtle and intimate relationship that develops between pets and their owners – something often dismissed as fleeting and less emotionally impacting than it is. Doty lives and writes in New York with his partner, the writer Paul Lisicky.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

I’m crazy about a bunch of young New York poets. May I make a shortlist? Brenda Shaughnessy, Tracy Smith, Tina Chang, Angelo Nikolopoulos, Alex Dmitrov.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Do writers ever actually retire? I don’t believe it; what else would one do to make any little bit of sense out of the world?

What’s next for you?

I’m working on two books at once: a prose study of Walt Whitman, sex, and ecstasy called What Is the Grass, and a book of new poems called Deep Lane. They’re both forthcoming from W.W. Norton, when I finish them. Thanks for asking.

78. Jane Mayer

Earlier this year, Jane Mayer gained a lot of attention for her coverage of the 2012 election. Her article Schmooze or Lose went viral for its breakdown of money and politics in the Obama and Romney campaigns, introducing casual readers to superPACs and assessing Obama’s fundraising problems. As a New Yorker staff writer, she’s written extensively on the CIA and its torture policies, Sarah Palin, the bin Laden family, and the TV series 24. She also wrote the powerful and meticulously researched best-seller, The Dark Side, which The New York Times singled out as “the most vivid and comprehensive account we have had so far of how a government founded on checks and balances and respect for individual rights could have been turned against those ideals.”

77. Ben Marcus

Known for his experimental writing, Ben Marcus is always on hand to show us something we’ve never seen before. The Flame Alphabet, Marcus’ fourth and most notable novel yet, was published by Knopf in 2012. Since 2000, Marcus has been an Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University’s School of Arts, and he is also the editor of the Anchor Book of New American Short Stories. He is the recipient of awards such as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has appeared in publications such as Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Conjunctions, among others. Marcus currently spends his time between New York City and Brooklin, Maine.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Yelena Akhtiorskaya

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

How do you stop a mind like that?

What’s next for you?

I have a collection of short stories coming out in January of 2014.

76. Richard Ford

Discerning (and underdog-defending) litnerds of New York City may have heard, and might first associate Ford with, an old story: at an event, he once spat on Colson Whitehead, who had given him a negative review in the Times. That anecdote is as widespread as it is because Ford is such a towering figure in American literature. His Frank Bascombe, a sportswriter, womanizer, and hapless dad, is as singular and real a protagonist as Ignatius Reilly or Holden Caulfield, and in Ford’s Bascombe trilogy, each book is finer than the last: Independence Day won the Pulitzer and PEN/Faulkner, while the final book, The Lay of the Land, about Bascombe’s later years, was an NBCC finalist. He’s also a legendary short story writer; the collection Rock Springs is taught in many a college fiction workshop. Last year, he edited Blue Collar, White Collar, an anthology of short stories about the workplace.

75. John Wray

Although he’s always had fans, for years John Wray (née John Henderson) was something of a cult taste. As Charles Bock noted in The New York Times, despite high critical praise for his first two novels, “admirers don’t necessarily translate to an audience; neither of those complex, historical, darkly tinged novels brought flocks of casual readers (go figure).” Thankfully, on the heels of The Right Hand of Sleep (2001), set in Nazi-era Austria, and the Civil War novel Canaan’s Tongue (2005) came Lowboy — the book that not only brought Wray the attention he deserves but also cemented the Park Slope-based writer’s place in New York lore. Published in 2009, the stylistically thrilling novel follows a paranoid schizophrenic 16-year-old boy who hops on the subway, embarking upon a misguided mission to stop global warming by satisfying his own nascent sexual urges.

74. Sloane Crosley

In 2008, while still a full-time book publicist for Random House’s Vintage Books, Sloane Crosley published her humor essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake to wild acclaim. (It became a New York Times bestseller, was a finalist for the Thurber Prize, and was optioned for an HBO series). She published her next collection, How Did You Get This Number in 2010, which tells about the foibles of her life in New York City. Crosley’s e-book Up The Down Volcano was released in 2011 and became a #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller, while her essays have appeared in anthologies such as The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Crosley no longer works as a publicist, and now writes for venues such as GQ, The New York Times, the Village Voice, Salon, Vogue, Bon Appetit, among others. She lives in Manhattan.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Edith Zimmerman.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Like I can’t share my feelings in this forum because he’s probably reading this on his iPhone.

What’s next for you?


73. Donald Antrim

Born in Miami, the weird and wonderful Donald Antrim currently resides in Brooklyn. He published his first novel, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, in 1993, and his second novel, The Hundred Brothers, was a finalist for the 1988 PEN/Faulkner Award. Following that, in 1999, Antrim was listed in The New Yorker’s Top 20 Under 40. He is a frequent fiction contributor to The New Yorker, and his work has also appeared in The Paris Review and Harper’s. Antrim teaches prose fiction at NYU, and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the NYPL.

72. Daniel Mendelsohn

“Being a critic is what I am,” Daniel Mendelsohn told Chronogram in 2008 — and, indeed, he has had one of the most impressive critical careers of our time. At a time when criticism is becoming more and more specialized (we don’t just have music critics; we have critics who only write on metal or hip hop), Mendelsohn’s interests span from literature to TV, and have resulted in two stellar collections: How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken (2008) and Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, which just came out last month. But “being a critic” isn’t the only thing Mendelsohn can do. Over the years, the renaissance man and Bard humanities professor has also published a pair of translations of the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy, an academic volume called Gender and the City in Euripides’ Political Plays, and two memoirs. One of the latter is his best-known work, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, a bestselling account of Mendelsohn’s trip around the world to learn the stories of six of his relatives who were killed in the Holocaust.

Photo by Matt Mendelsohn.

71. Touré

From facing off against Piers Morgan over the Trayvon Martin shooting, to regularly participating in political roundtables on MSNBC and elsewhere, to his prolific tweets about pop culture (he’s zeroing in on 100k followers), Touré may be, to many, a pundit. But first and foremost, he’s a writer: after a story collection and then a novel, his 2006 book of essays Never Drank the Kool-Aid collected a decade of his published writing and ranged from hilarious to incisive. Last year, his book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? met with strong reviews and suggested a new way of examining race in the wake of Barack Obama’s presidency. With regular columns for that cover a surprising and exciting range — including one with a list of tips for a happy marriage — Touré is a New York-based authority in print and on the Web. And after all, any author who can pull off having one name is pretty baller, no?

70. Chad Harbach

One of the founding editors of hip New York literary magazine n+1 (it was he, apparently, who came up with the name), Harbach has been a fixture on the city’s culture of letters for quite some time. But his stock skyrocketed last year when he slapped us all with his excellent debut novel, The Art of Fielding, a baseball book-cum-campus novel that managed to be appealing to habitual detractors of each. He’s a Brewers fan.

69. Siri Hustvedt

Norwegian-born novelist Siri Hustvedt’s work is interested in identity and the gaze. Hypnotic and intellectual, her novels are well-known for characters whose narratives are fragmented and nonlinear (and it’s no surprise her non-literary influences include Lacan and Kristeva). Hustvedt’s work often draws from her New York life – her novel What I Loved is a complicated story of love and death in the recesses of the city’s webbed art world. After suffering a mysterious seizure in 2006, Hustvedt wrote the book Shaking Woman: A History of My Nerves in her search for answers. The book, which has been called a “neurological memoir,” calls on four separate scientific disciplines to find answers for the condition. Hustvedt now lives in Brooklyn with her husband, also a writer.

Who is your favorite living New York author?

I admire both Katie Kitamura and Teju Cole.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Philip Roth has left many books behind him. Not every novelist is required to write onto death.

What’s next for you?

I have just finished a novel, The Blazing World. I am preparing a paper I will deliver at a neurobiology conference in Paris at the end of January, and I am reading and rereading Kierkegaard for the keynote lecture I am giving in Copenhagen at a conference in celebration of his 200th birthday. I have also agreed to write an essay on Anselm Kiefer this spring. In short, I’m working hard on several fronts.

68. Jonathan Ames

Brooklyn’s own Jonathan Ames doesn’t need much of an introduction, and in fact, we’re not sure where to start. That’s because he’s all over the place. Ames is a master of self-deprecation and crass humor, and he hasn’t found a line he won’t cross. We’re constantly amused by his antics (who else would deem the Williamsburg Bank Building the Most Phallic Building in America?). Antics aside, his body of work speaks for itself. The author of three novels and four essay collections, he’s a frequent guest on The Moth, and creator of the HBO seriesBored To Death. If that’s not enough, he’s even dabbled in graphic novels and acted in an independent film. Ames’ daring and tenacious spirit is exactly why we find him one of the most unpredictable writers of our time.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Benjamin Hale

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?


What’s next for you?

Not sure.

Photo by Seth Kushner.

67. Eileen Myles

Eileen Myles is poetry’s Patti Smith, a punk antihero. She arrived in New York in 1974 and gave her first reading at the now-dead, ever-legendary CBGB, and has been instrumental in the development of New York’s queer art and punk scene. Myles has written theatre, prose, and poetry, most recently the collection Snowflake / different streets, and Inferno, which she called a “poets’ novel.” Myles also toured with the legendary performance group Sister Spit, and led a write-in campaign for president in 1992. Of this experience, she wrote: “Jump when you know that the only thing that would make sense this year would be if you ran for President of the United States. You know, they really can’t stop you.”

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Every writer I know is in a state of emergency. Karen Weiser is a poet I’ve been following for a few years. She just did this piece Dear Pierre that’s a rewriting, disruption of Herman Melville’s Pierre. Abstract and emotional. Musical too. Very insinuative and pure and true.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Thank God. I’m happy he’s still alive and we won’t have to keep hearing about his boring books. It’s very generous of him to stop.

What’s next for you?

Afterglow (a memoir). It’s my first and it’s entirely fantastic. It’s about a pitbull named Rosie I lived with for sixteen years.

66. Amy Sohn

When Amy Sohn published her novel Prospect Park West, New York Times writer Steven Kurutz called the depiction of the four women in it “a little too real.” The book generated heated conversation, and was hailed as both the bringer of a new narrative of the American woman, and a necessary update to “chick lit,” for its unforgiving depictions of ruthless, self-absorbed Park Slope mothers. Since then, Sohn has published a sequel, Motherland. The Brooklyn author is also a screenwriter, an erstwhile dating columnist, and a former contributing editor at New York Magazine.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Nell Freudenberger

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I am personally disappointed because his work over the past 20 years is so strong. He was an inspiration to me as someone who was devoted solely to the craft and less so to living life and now he seems to be saying he’d rather live life. Here he is giving it up when all of us with worldly responsibilities fantasize about having a home in Connecticut with no distractions and a pond to swim in when we’re blocked. As a married person and a parent, I find Roth’s lifestyle/hermeticism extremely appealing and also impossible. I guess all of us filtered the news through the prism of whatever we are working on now. I am deep into a difficult novel that is due imminently. So when he said he doesn’t want to have any more days where he works on five pages and throws them out, I thought, “That’s actually a huge liberty to be able to do that. I wish I could have a day like that but I don’t have time!” I also had the thought that a day like that is beautiful. It’s why we do it. Because there are enough other days where everything flows and you don’t throw anything out.

What’s next for you?

I am working on a novel to be published in early 2014. It deals with an ordinary young woman who confronts extreme circumstances.

Photo by Charles Miller.

65. Edmund White

The legendary literary icon published his first book, Forgetting Elena (which Vladimir Nabokov called “a marvelous book”) way back in 1973, and has been writing in many forms about life, growing up, and the gay experience ever since. Not only has he been widely acclaimed as a fiction writer and memoirist — we loved 2010’s City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and ’70s, which is exactly what it sounds like, but better — but he has cemented his reputation as an important literary critic and an essential New York writer.

Photo by Andrew Fladeboe.

64. Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss was born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island. She wrote and published mainly poetry until her acclaimed debut novel, A Man Walks Into A Room. The novel tells the story of a beloved Columbia professor found wandering in the Nevada desert with his memory permanently erased by a brain tumor, and the devastating effects brought on by a loss of identity and self. Since then, Krauss has written several other well-loved novels, including The History of Love and Great House. Krauss studied with the poet Joseph Brodsky at Stanford, and later both produced a documentary about him and curated a reading series at the Russian Samovar in Times Square, which he co-founded. Krauss now lives in Brooklyn with her husband, also a writer.

63. Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn is the author of several books of poetry, prose, and drama. His first poetry collection, Some Ether, focused on his mother’s suicide, and its spareness and sparkling language made the term “confessional” compelling again. Flynn’s prose is also infused by the other genres in which he works: his memoir The Ticking is the Bomb is both about the birth of his daughter, and the topic of torture in the cultural conversation of the late aughts. Though born in Scituate, MA, Flynn is a quintessential New York writer – his play Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins is about the famous New York blackout, and his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City was recently made into a film starring Robert DeNiro (the most New York actor of all).

62. Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits represents the other half of one of New York’s most elite literary power couples (she’s married to Ben Marcus), but she holds her own by consistently pushing the boundaries of fiction both in form and content. None of her four novels resembles the last (we recommend this year’s The Vanishers), and we were never quite sure why her short stories haven’t made her a bigger deal in short fiction (check out last month’s Harper’s or BASS 1999 to see what we mean). Even more, she co-edits The Believer , one of the more interesting projects the McSweeney’s franchise has churned out (the quirky and eclectic monthly focuses on arts and culture, while giving voice to under-the-radar artist on both coasts). For all her work on and off the page, we are incredibly thankful for Heidi Julavits.

61. Lev Grossman

The child of two English professors, Lev Grossman was born and raised in Lexington, MA. After three years spent in pursuing a Comparative Literature Ph.D. at Yale, Grossman moved to New York City and worked in web production, while writing for magazines on the side. In 1997, Grossman published his fist novel, Warp, followed by another, Codex (2004), which became an international bestseller. Grossman was also hired by Time in 2002 as a full-time staffer, and writes also for Salon, the Village Voice, Wired, Lingua Franca, and The New York Times, among other venues. His third novel, The Magicians (sometimes known, though not altogether fairly, as “Harry Potter Goes to College”), was published in 2009, and became a New York Times bestseller. Its sequel, The Magician King, came out last year to equal acclaim, and earned Grossman the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Grossman currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

That I’m not sure about. I just read a first novel in galleys called Truth in Advertising, by John Kenney, that was very, very funny. I also like Wells Tower, but he may not be emerging anymore — he may be fully emerged. I’m also not sure if he lives in New York.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Truthfully, I’m all right with it. I feel like I have all the Roth I need.

What’s next for you?

I’m about 3/5 done with the third and last Magicians book. I think it’ll be the best of the three. Then I’ll write something a little different.


60. Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

As we pointed out in our interview with Said Sayrafiezadeh in June, we’re very excited for his forthcoming collection of short stories, three of which have already appeared in The New Yorker (we have a feeling it’ll be a big deal). Sayrafiezadeh’s 2009 book, When Skateboards Will Be Free introduced him as a new and important voice in memoir, as he managed to strike the perfect balance between the personal and political. It’s this ability that makes his work feel both relevant and timeless, whether he’s covering Occupy Wall Street for McSweeney’s, or tackling the stage as a playwright. One of the youngest writers on our list, we think Sayrafiezadeh has only begun to dazzle us. We have a feeling we’ll be hearing from him for a long time.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Jessica Soffer. Her first book is coming out soon, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots. My NYU students are also my favorite emerging writers. They care about literature in a way that makes me feel that there’s hope.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

The idea of officially retiring from writing is a sobering one. It underscores one’s inevitable artistic mortality. I’m trying not to think about it too much.

What’s next for you?

My debut fiction, entitled Brief Encounters With the Enemy. Published by Dial Press. In stores August 2013.

59. Nathan Englander

Englander’s first story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, was published by Knopf in 1999. Since then, he has published the novel The Ministry of Special Cases (2007) and recently, another story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (2012), which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Englander’s fiction has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and various anthologies such as The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Anthology, and The Pushcart Prize. He is a winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Bard Fiction Prize, and a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the NYPL. Englander currently teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Hunter College, and at NYU’s Writers in Paris program.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

I’ll go for the most emerging-of-emerging writers. That is, a former student from Hunter College, whose book is not yet out. Bill Cheng has a novel called Southern Cross The Dog that’s about to be published. I’m reading it now and it’s, thus far, fantastic and beautifully written.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I’d known about this for a while now. And I understand his reasons and it makes perfect sense to me. If he goes the music-industry route and decides to come out of retirement five more times, I’d be more than happy to read the books. But I don’t think that’s the case here.

What’s next for you?

Lincoln Center Theater has commissioned my next play — and I’m really excited to work on that. And there’s a novel I’ve been dying to work on. I can hardly wait to set fire, to my carry on luggage and lock myself in my room for a stretch.

58. Frederick Seidel

Since the beginning of his career, poet Frederick Seidel has been a figure of some controversy. His work has been called sinister and strange; he was once dubbed “the poet the twentieth century deserved” and David Orr of The New York Times called him “one of poetry’s few scary characters.” Seidel’s first book, Final Solutions, was simultaneously praised for its content and form and denounced for its potentially libelous implications and anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic tone. During the last half-century, Seidel has published thirteen volumes of poetry. He continues to live in New York, and has written several city-themed works, including the collection Area Code 212, a volume modeled after Dante’s Inferno.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Lorin Stein.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Not good.

What’s next for you?


57. Walter Mosley

The wildly prolific and stunningly versatile Walter Mosley is most well known for his bestselling mystery series starring the unlicensed hard-boiled detective Easy Rawlins, who gets into lots of trouble in Los Angeles, but he also writes science fiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, and at least one book of erotica. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the “Risktaker Award” from the Sundance Institute, awarded for both his artistic and activist pursuits.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

My favorite emerging New York writer is Eisa Ulen.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I think that everyone has a right to decide when they want to retire and that includes Philip Roth. He leaves the writing profession with a lot for people to think about for centuries to come.

What’s next for you?

December 2012 e-book Parishioner released by Doubleday December 2012 Merge/Disciple published by Tor April 2013 Stepping Stone/Love Machine published by Tor May 2013 White Lilies, a one-act play performed at Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, NJ May 2013 Little Green, a new Easy Rawlins novel published by Doubleday

56. Alex Ross

Not to be confused with the excellent comic-book artist of the same name, Alex Ross has been a music critic at The New Yorker since 1996. In both his columns and his books, 2010’s Listen to This and especially 2007’s invaluable, award-winning The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, Ross accomplishes what seems at this point like an impossible task: he makes classical music relevant to contemporary readers. But the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient’s talents aren’t limited to music criticism. Over the years, Ross has taken on a number of other subjects for The New Yorker; his recent feature on the gay rights movement is among the best pieces we’ve ever read on the topic.

55. Joshua Ferris

For any lover of literature who’s ever worked in a faceless office, Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End (2007) is irresistible. A first-person plural account of an advertising agency in crisis, the National Book Award finalist is one of those satires that leaves us grimacing with recognition just as often as it makes us laugh. In 2010, the author proved to be more than just a one-hit wonder with the publication of The Unnamed, the semi-surreal story of a lawyer who is suddenly afflicted by a seemingly permanent compulsion to walk. Despite the mixed reviews for his second novel, his place in the literary establishment was cemented that same year, when The New Yorker included Ferris, now 38, on its “20 Under 40” list of notable young writers.

Photo by Nina Subin.

54. Téa Obreht

Téa Obreht is a recent but bell-clear voice in New York letters – her debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife, follows a young narrator in a fictionalized, small Balkan town explores her connection to her doctor grandfather through the stories (often strange and uncanny) that he tells her. Obreht wrote the novel while at Cornell, and it was excerpted in The New Yorker before its publication; after it was out, Obreht became the youngest-ever recipient of the Orange Prize. Poet Charles Simić praised the work in the New York Review of Books. Obreht lives in New York and cites Roald Dahl among her influences.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Haley Tanner wrote one of the most touching love stories I’ve come across in contemporary literature. Her voice is shot through with this fine-tuned, controlled hilarity, and it alchemizes the life-long relationship between Vaclav and Lena into something immediate and wonderful and very, very real.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I think there’s something incredibly poignant about being part of the world when a literary giant like Roth officially exits the universe he has been crafting for decades. His work is finished, on its own in the world of the reader now — witnessing it in that state is a rare and beautiful thing.

What’s next for you?

As part of my welcome package, New York City served up Sandy, the 2012 Election and the pre-Thanksgiving rush at Fairway in Harlem — I think the best I can currently do is find my way through this second novel.

53. Ian Frazier

You might recognize Ian Frazier from his Talk of the Town pieces in The New Yorker or his humor writing in any of his outstanding essay collections, but he truly outdid himself with his 2010 masterpiece Travels in Siberia, which proved not only to be a chilling page turner, but actually as grand as its subject matter suggested! After teasing us with installments in The New Yorker, the 500-page tome has become an iconic portrait of Siberia, one that is as entertaining as it is epic. But Siberia only scratches the surface. For a taste of Frazier at his best, we also recommend Great Plains and On the Rez.

52. Samuel R. Delany

Born and raised in Harlem, Samuel R. Delany remains one of the most important living science fiction novelists — a title not hurt by the fact that he began publishing the stuff at the ripe age of 20, nor by his collection of awards — the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Stonewall Book Award, among others. While Delany has published an inimitable list of science fiction (Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, Nova, the Return to Nevèrÿon series), he has also written extensively on sexuality and society. Delany’s memoir Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999) is a mix of personal history, urban geography, and sexuality studies — with NYC’s (gay and straight) working-class men as its main subject. Delany has also documented his own courtship with Dennis Rickett in Bread and Wine: An Erotic Tale of New York (2000). He is known for controversial subject matter — his pornographic novel Hogg was written in 1969, but didn’t make it to print until 1995 — and also writes literary criticism. Delany’s most recent novel, Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, was published in April, and he currently teaches English and Creative Writing at Temple University.

Who’s your favorite emerging New York writer?

A work of historical reconstruction, such as Mat Johnson’s The Great Negro Plot, about the history of a black uprising in New York at the end of the 18th Century, is beautifully executed and richly informative. Is that the sort of thing you mean? One reason I like it so much is simply because it’s not about the here and now. And Pym, which basically takes place in the the Antarctic, is a delightful creation. Imagination is often undervalued in current fiction.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Human beings retire. But Philip Roth is a body of work which is always there for readers to look through and choose from. Fifteen years ago, the man sat a table away from me during lunch time at an Upper West Side Portuguese restaurant — but that was the only time I’ve ever seen him. We never spoke; I doubt if he would have known who I was if we had. What can I do but wish the man well and be glad the books are there?

What’s next for you?

I’d like to write another story or two. If I’m able to retire, any time soon, I’d like to write another novel — I’ve been diddling in that direction for a few months.

51. Pete Hamill

A native Brooklynite, Pete Hamill is an acclaimed novelist, journalist, editor, and screenwriter. He has written a whopping 15 books, including the bestselling novels Snow in August (1998) and Forever (2003). In his bestselling memoir Downtown: My Manhattan (2004), Hamill writes about his life in New York City from childhood to his thirties (the book apparently inspired Frank McCourt to finish his own memoir, Angela’s Ashes). Hamill started as a reporter for The New York Post in 1960, and has also worked for the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Herald Tribune, and the Village Voice. A friend of Robert F. Kennedy, Hamill helped convince Kennedy to run for president, and later worked on the campaign as a journalist. He has also covered wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland, as well as local politics such as the urban riots of the 1960s. But however far afield he may travel, as his biography page states: “He has always returned to New York.”

50. Paula Fox

Paula Fox, born and raised in New York, is a novelist and children’s author. In 1970 she wrote the notable Desperate Characters, about a couple caught by surprise in their midlife in the suddenly-unfamiliar Brooklyn of the 1960s. The novel was widely praised for its depiction of a New York in crisis, and though Fox’s novels are out-of-print today, her work is considered an important part of the city’s literary history. Fox has been loyal to Brooklyn, living there her adult life even though when she was first working there, “Brooklyn was a last resort.”

49. Francine Prose

True to her name, Francine Prose is one of New York’s most prolific and stylistically recognizable voices. She is also the author of a wide range of books of fiction and nonfiction, including Blue Angel, a sharp and funny satire about sexual harassment in academia, and Anne Frank: the Book, the Life, the Afterlife, a literary critique of the famous diary. For many years, she served as the president of New York’s venerable PEN American Center, which aims to foster defend free expression and foster international literary fellowship. Prose is also one of the New York natives of this list – she was born in Brooklyn.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Favorite apples? Favorite oranges? How could I possibly pick favorites from the immense range of talent?

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I’m sorry Philip Roth is retiring, but it’s a good excuse for us all to reread his novels.

What’s next for you?

I’m trying to finish a very long novel entitled Lovers at the Chameleon Club. Paris, 1932.

48. Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is hands down the best writer on neurology there is. The NYU School of Medicine professor, physician, and amateur chemist is best known for his books Awakenings (adapted into Robin Williams movie) and The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. He gravitates toward bizarre and lesser-known disorders, such as musical hallucinations in the erudite Musicophilia. Recently, he’s taken an even more fascinating turn. After years of perfecting a truly unparalleled writing style based on examining his patients in case studies, he’s turned the focus on himself. In the partly autobiographical The Mind’s Eye, Sacks examines his own prosopagnosia (also known as “face blindness” — he can’t recognize people’s faces). In one chapter, he recalls pouring wine into someone’s lap; elsewhere, pages from his own personal journal are re-printed. And in his most recent book, Hallucinations, Sacks draws on both personal and professional experiences to explore the physiological, psychological, and cultural impact of the titular phenonmenon. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages.

What’s next for you?

Perhaps a book of travel pieces, for a change.

Photo by Eileen Barroso.

47. Sam Lipsyte

Before anything else, you might associate Sam Lipsyte with his most recent (and arguably his breakthrough) novel The Ask, an angry, hilarious screed about Milo, a hapless fundraiser at what he nicknames Mediocre University (perhaps a thinly veiled Columbia?). But The Ask was Lipsyte’s fourth book, and among many readers he was already a household name, mostly for his short stories. A frequent fiction contributor to The New Yorker (one of his recent stories, “The Dungeon Master,” had that perfect mix of sadness and humor, and quite rightly landed in the 2012 BASS anthology), Lipsyte’s next book, The Fun Parts (March 2013), will be his second story collection, following the excellent Venus Drive. Columbia fiction professor, colleague of Gary Shteyngart and Ben Marcus, fan of James Franco, son of legendary sportswriter Robert Lipsyte and a formidable figure in scathing Jewish fiction, Lipsyte is a New York literary force.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

There are a bunch of them. They are all in various stages of emergence.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I didn’t know you could.

What’s next for you?

A book of stories is out in March. Working on a novel. So, submergence for me.

46. Frank Rich

Not everyone can move from being a theatre critic to writing a weekly 1,500 word column for the Sunday Times as one of the paper’s most venerable critics of Washington. But the ever-intelligent Frank Rich made the shift look easy, never wasting a word while he was at it, and we were all quite saddened when he left the Times to edit New York Magazine (others were just baffled by his decision). Interestingly enough, Rich earned the title of “Butcher of Broadway” during his tenure as theatre critic, so strong was his reputation of writing harsh reviews. In 2006, he took his “butchering” skills straight to the Bush administration in his unsparing and passionate book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina.

45. Anne Carson

Translator, writer, and classics scholar Anne Carson is the ultimate literary hyphenate. She’s the author of thirteen books of prose, drama, and poetry; among these are the inimitable The Autobiography of Red, a novel-in-verse about the coming of age of a mythical monster, and 2012’s Antigonick, a new translation of Sophokles with illustrations by Bianca Stone. Originally Canadian, the formidable Carson has been Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at NYU since 2010, and she continues to stun the city’s literary community with collaborations that transcend the idea of the reading, sometimes incorporating dancers and audiovisual elements. Carson’s work is often based in ancient Greek writings, but always luminously contemporary.

44. Colum McCann

A Professor of Creative Writing in the Master of Fine Arts program at Hunter College, Irish author Colum McCann won the 2009 National Book Award with Let the Great World Spin, a 9/11 allegory set in ’70s NYC. (JJ Abrams snatched up the film rights.) McCann’s forthcoming sixth novel, Translatlantic — which is based on John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown’s first nonstop transatlantic flight in 1919 — is slated for a July 2013 release; listen to him read an excerpt at The New Yorker.

43. Chuck Klosterman

The career of Chuck Klosterman has taken many compelling twists and turns: the Minnesota-born writer and pop culture prognosticator began as a critic at Spin, but was laid off. His first book was a hilarious and personal rock treatise centered on Fargo, North Dakota (he grew up in the state) and his second, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, was a wide-ranging collection of his pop-culture writing. But it was Klosterman’s third book, Killing Yourself to Live, that earned him the most attention, much of it controversial thanks to one particular theory that he floats about Radiohead: that the album Kid A unintentionally predicted, and described, 9/11. He went on to write two novels (not as strong as his nonfiction work, but quirky and interesting at the very least) and contributes regularly to Grantland, the all-encompassing web site of Bill Simmons, his sportswriter friend. This summer — in a hire that is less from-left-field than it may seem if you’ve read the bizarre ethical choice scenarios he lays out in Cocoa Puffs or in Klosterman IVThe New York Times made Klosterman its Ethicist.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

I don’t feel qualified to answer this question. I’m never aware of anyone until they’ve already emerged.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

His reasoning was totally sound. Obviously, he’s in a great position — when 99 percent of writers “retire,” it just means everyone else stopped caring.

What’s next for you?

I have a new nonfiction book coming out next year titled I Wear the Black Hat. We’ll see what happens.

42. Colson Whitehead

The author, whose five novels have included Sag Harbor and a wise racial allegory about elevator inspectors, The Intuitionist, sparked a fiery feud in the literary world with his 2011 novel Zone One. Was it genre fiction? Was it not? Do we need those labels? Can a zombie story also count as fine literary fiction? Does it matter? Don’t ask Glen Duncan, author of The Last Werewolf, who irked many with his review of Whitehead’s book for the Times. Or do! But Whitehead is also the author of The Colossus of New York, a nonfiction meditation on life in the city. On Twitter, his wry, self-deprecating humor (and serious writing tips) make him a must-follow even for those who don’t necessarily read his books. Also, gaze in awe at his sweet dreadlocks.

41. Richard Price

The bard of New York City’s criminals and cops alike, Richard Price has built a storied career all off of his impressive ear for gritty city dialogue. From the young blue-collar kids that come of age and deal with their dreams (and also discover crime, drugs, and girls) in The Wanderers, to the dealers and detectives that inhabit Clockers (which became a Spike Lee film), Price’s books are modern classics of urban realism. The best of them may be 2008’s Lush Life, still his most recent book, which Sam Anderson approached in New York Magazine as a “Gramno” (we’ll let you figure out what that is), concluding that it is “at least a fucking Very Goomno.” It is no wonder Price was one of the writers for the HBO series The Wire. Read his thrilling, unflinching books about life in the city and you’ll be talkin’ tough in no time.

40. Teju Cole

Certainly one of the only writers we can think of that lives in Brooklyn (ha), Teju Cole’s first novel, Open City, was, by any measuring stick, an enormous success (his first book, a novella, appears to be out of print). Open City, which follows a Nigerian doctor, Julius, as he wanders aimlessly around New York City, catapulted Cole into the center of the whole “important young New York writers” scene and put him on just about everyone’s list of smart people that need to be watched and read. Since the release of Open City, he has written essays for Granta (about his eye problems) and The Atlantic (a controversial stance about the KONY 2012 video). Over at his Twitter feed, Cole writes what he calls “fait divers“: bite-sized, sadly funny reports about news, usually deaths, in Lagos. Now he’s writing a nonfiction book about Lagos, sure to attract all the eager and important eyeballs.

39. Malcolm Gladwell

A staff writer for The New Yorker since the mid-90s, English-born Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell made himself into a household name — and the bane of many an academic — by packaging social science research into audience-friendly theories about modern life. “I spend my time talking to people who tell me things, and then I write them down,” he told New York Magazine in 2008. “I’m necessarily parasitic in a way. I have done well as a parasite. But I’m still a parasite.” Gladwell has written four books, all of them making it to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Best Sellers List. He also, as you might imagine, has a very lucrative public speaking career.

38. Robert A. Caro

These days, you might know Robert Caro merely as the biographer of Lyndon B. Johnson — and indeed, his four volumes so far have been fabulous: the most recent, The Passage of Power, released thirty years after the first volume, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Two deep magazine profiles of Caro published within three days of each other, one in Esquire and the other in the Times Magazine, certainly helped introduce him to anyone who was out of the loop. But Caro established himself as a master biographer way back in 1975 when he published The Power Broker, a doorstop-length examination of Robert Moses, the man responsible for many of the buildings and structures in New York City. Caro’s book on Moses is still assigned to incoming graduate students at Columbia J-school, and his fifth and final (unless he changes his mind!) volume on LBJ will take another two or three years to complete, he has said. Better start catching up.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

It seems to me to be a wonderful, triumphant accomplishment when you can say, “I have created a body of work that will endure, and now I am done.”

What’s next for you?

The next book on Lyndon Johnson — the last, I believe.

Photo by Joyce Ravid.

37. Rick Moody

The author and musician whose fame originally comes from his novel The Ice Storm — which resulted in one of those rare cases, by the way, of a movie being nearly as good as the book on which it is based — has continued to steadily put out good and important work both in novel and short story form. (Thankfully his first novel, Garden State, was not the inspiration for the film of the same name starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman.) His newest book, 2010’s The Four Fingers of Death, received acclaim for its wacky setup and ambition (in terms of length, it’s a doozy) and this year he wrote the introduction to the new, authoritative Dalkey Press edition of JR by William Gaddis. Moody has also climbed on board with new media, notably, in 2009 when he published, through Electric Literature, an entire short story on Twitter, told in 153 tweets over the course of three days. Moody, who co-created the NYPL Young Lions literary award with some other writers in 2001, can often be spotted frequenting the city’s bookstores.

36. Mary Karr

Mary Karr is a poet and memoirist from East Texas. She first rose to notoriety with her 1995 bestseller The Liars’ Club, which told the story of her troubled childhood nested within a family of fiercely loving maladroits in a rough refinery town (“A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it,” Karr writes). But to really know her, you’ve got to read her poetry — indeed, Karr considers herself a poet foremost, and acquired a controversial reputation for herself after an essay in Parnassus in which she argued for content over form, called the world of metaphor “foggy,” and criticized well-known poets like James Merrill. Karr currently teaches at Syracuse University in New York, and has been the recipient of a Guggenheim, an NEA grant, and many other honors.

35. Peter Carey

We’re happy to be able to officially call the Australian-born novelist our own — since 2003, he has been the Director of Hunter College’s MFA program, which we think pretty much counts. The much-lauded Carey is one of only four novelists to be awarded two Booker Prizes, his first for the wonderful Oscar and Lucinda (1988), and the second for 2001’s True History of the Kelly Gang. He’s constantly name-dropped around Nobel season, and one of these years, we have every confidence that he’ll take home the prize. He’s currently at work on a new novel.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Tea Obreht

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Why should he escape?

What’s next for you?

I’m there already! I must be there already!

34. Charles Simić

Though he has admitted to originally turning to poetry to meet girls, Serbian-American poet and translator Charles Simić is one of the most recognizable voices in American poetics, and the author of fifteen collections. After a childhood in war-torn Europe (Simić once jokingly called Stalin his travel agent in The New York Times), his family moved to Chicago. Following this, Simić attended New York University for a BA. After holding down various odd jobs around the city, he began making a name for himself with his literary-minimalist poems in the 1970s. Simić was the fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2007, has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and continues to contribute to the New York Review of Books and other publications.

33. James Wood

Formerly at The Guardian and then The New Republic, James Wood is now The New Yorker’s main book critic and is second perhaps only to Michiko Kakutani as New York’s foremost arbiter of the make-you or break-you book review. He certainly “made” Teju Cole (also on this list!), or at least deserves much of the credit for the wild success of Cole’s novel Open City, after he devoted considerable New Yorker space to praising Cole’s diary of New York City walking. His fourth and newest book of criticism is called The Fun Stuff, but we recommend first reading The Irresponsible Self. The heir apparent to Harold Bloom, Wood also teaches at Harvard and has instigated various high-profile dust-ups, including a Guardian essay about “hysterical realism” that trashed Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, and a scathing review of The Fortress of Solitude that led Jonathan Lethem to publish a whiny, eight-year-late response in the LARB. Yes, Wood’s got the power and the smarts to ignite literary fires all over New York and beyond.

32. Paul Krugman

To put it simply, there’s no one quite as good at writing about economics for a casual audience than Nobel Prize winner and Princeton Professor Paul Krugman. Clearly a genius, his ability is amazing — now even a fifth grader can understand New Keynesian theory! Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating a little, but believe us, Krugman is the real deal. In the wake of our financial meltdown, his writing has never been more important. Krugman is not only one of the strongest voices in criticizing US economic policy, but he’s actually quite funny. Some of his critics have accused him of going off the deep end (he criticized the Obama administration’s stimulus plan for not going far enough), but regardless, he’s a tremendous force in economic writing.

31. Cynthia Ozick

One of the most prolific writers on our list, Cynthia Ozick should really be a lot better known than she is. Don’t believe us? Take David Foster Wallace’s words for it: “I regard Cynthia Ozick, Cormac McCarthy, and Don DeLillo as pretty much the country’s best living fiction writers,” he once mused. Not only does Ozick tackle everything — novels, short stories, essays, poetry, even a few translations! — she’s a trailblazer in Jewish American fiction. Along with Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud, she paved the way for a new generation of Jewish writers we’ve come to know and love today. For the uninitiated, we recommend her essays in Quarrel & Quandary, her superb short story collection The Pagan Rabbi, and this year’s Orange Prize shortlisted novel Foreign Bodies.

30. Gary Shteyngart

Easily one of the funniest writers on our list, Gary Shteyngart’s literary presence extends all throughout New York. One of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” writers, Shteyngart can be found teaching at Columbia’s MFA Program, hanging out with Mary Gaitskill and James Franco, and championing young writers on his spare time (check out the King of Blurbs in action.) Amazingly, he hasn’t written a bland book yet. Perhaps that’s because he so fully embodies his wacky characters (come on, if Super Sad True Love Story were a movie, it would be difficult not to cast Shteyngart as Lenny Abramov). As proven with the playful Russian Debutante’s Handbook, the darkly comicAbsurdistan, and his 2010 love letter to our cultural moment Super Sad True Love Story, Shteyngart is easily one of the best living satirists writing in the English language.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Are you kidding? There are so many! [Ed. note: Shteyngart should know — he’s blurbed all of them!]

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

On the one hand, it’s sad. On the other hand, when you’re done, you’re done! There’s an old Russian saying zdelal delo, gul’ai smelo. Roughly “You’ve finished your task, now you may frolic with ease.” What good fortune to be done with one’s life burden!

What’s next for you?

I’ve just turned 40 so I need to finish a memoir before I die soon.

29. John Ashbery

The enigmatic poet’s fifty-some-year career has seen all kinds of highs – John Ashbery has won everything from the Yale Younger Poets Prize to the National Book Award to the Pulitzer (in 1976 for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror). With Frank O’Hara, Barbara Guest, and others, Ashbery is considered a formidable part of the New York School; he also remains one of New York’s most beloved literary figures, and served as its Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003. But let’s not forget John Ashbery’s alliances with other genres of art – he was friends with Warhol, for one. And when you consider that his work has a reputation for being obscure, avant-garde and experimental, it’s kind of brilliant that he was also named the first Poet Laureate for MTVU (the music television giant’s subsidiary) in 2007.

28. Michael Cunningham

Whenever a new Michael Cunningham novel appears, we can’t help but turn the first pages, anxiously wondering if it will live up to his last one (though really, what could possibly follow his Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece The Hours?). But leave it to Cunningham to continually delight us. For starters, we recommend the two novels that bookend his career so far. The elegiac gay coming of age novel A Home at the End of the World rightfully put him on the map, and we think the criminally underrated By Nightfall is every bit as haunting. Even when he’s experimenting (see Specimen Days), Cunningham flirts with perfection. But he’s more than the sum of his novels. He’s also a great literary citizen. When he’s not too busy helping new literary journals, he’s nurturing young writers at Yale; ask him to judge the Pulitzer Prize, and he’ll gladly do it (just don’t give him a reason to rebuke you).

27. Deborah Eisenberg

Like many on this list, virtuosic short-story writer Deborah Eisenberg is a New York City transplant, moving to the city from Chicago in 1973 to work as an editorial assistant at the New York Review of Books. In her career, she’s published four collections of short stories, including 2006’s Twilight of the Superheroes, an exploration of character psyches in post-9/11 New York. She also published a collected works in 2010, and wrote a play called Pastorale, which was produced at the NYC theater Second Stage I 1982. Deborah Eisenberg continues to live and work in New York.

26. Jonathan Safran Foer

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full decade since Jonathan Safran Foer burst onto the New York literary scene with Everything Is Illuminated, an electrically energetic novel in which a young Jewish man travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during the Holocaust. A multifaceted semi-autobiographical tale enlivened by magical realist touches, it made Foer both a bestselling author and a critical success at only 25 years old. He followed up Everything Is Illuminated with 2005’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a novel that takes on another historical tragedy: 9/11. Since then, Foer has busied himself with less traditional projects, including the vegetarian polemic Eating Animals and Tree of Codes, a work of book art he created by physically cutting words out of Polish author Bruno Schulz’s short story collection The Street of Crocodiles. These pursuits may have taken him out of the spotlight for a while, but expect Foer to make a big comeback in 2014, when his third novel, Escape from Children’s Hospital, is due out.

25. Lena Dunham

We know what you’re about to say — Lena Dunham doesn’t even have a book out, so how can she be making this list already? Easy: as you might remember, the filmmaker and creator of HBO’s Girls recently sold her first essay collection, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, for more than $3.5 million. And it’s not just the money that makes her an important writer: from the looks of the proposal, and from what we already know about Dunham, it appears that the book will address 20-something women with the kind of humor, honesty and intelligence that they deserve — and rarely get. That seems pretty important to us.

24. Joseph O’Neill

Look, when the president publicly praises your novel, you get to count yourself as pretty important. Indeed, 2008’s Netherland was a literary triumph, described by the New York Times Book Review’s Dwight Garner as “the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we’ve yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell,” a New York book, an America book, a World book. O’Neill is also an accomplished literary critic who has written extensively for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, and The New York Times.

Photo by Lisa Ackerman.

23. A.M. Homes

A provocateur of the very best variety, A.M. Homes’ books — novels, short story collections, a travel memoir — are often dark and even terrifying, but they are almost always compelling, beautifully written masterworks by a writer at the top of her field. A woman of almost unimaginable breadth, she serves on the President’s Council for Poets and Writers and is also a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair, Bomb, and Blind Spot, and was a writer/producer of Showtime’s The L Word.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Hannah Tinti — even though I think she’s officially already emerged — but hey it’s an ongoing multi-year process.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

Horrible. I’m in a panic — what will I do without the next Philip Roth novel? What’s amazing is how many incredible books he’s written and that at a point when many others would have been content to rest on their laurels (do Jews even have laurels?) he had a creative second and third wind and wrote enough to span multiple careers. I just hate the idea of their being no more Philip Roth novels…

What’s next for you?

Well I was going to write a non-fiction book about hospitals — for Alain de Botton’s series on large scale organizations and then a book of short stories — but if Roth is seriously retiring I think I may have to write a Philip Roth novel…

Photo by Marion Ettlinger.

22. David Remnick

The editor of The New Yorker since 1998, David Remnick is nothing if not committed to New York City and the best in investigative and literary journalism. Indeed, in addition to his work with the magazine and his editorial work on other writers’ nonfiction, Remnick has published six original books, including Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire, for which he won a Pulitzer, and most recently, the bestselling The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.

21. Patti Smith

Few writers capture the nostalgic spirit of New York City like Patti Smith, our doyenne of punk, our reigning poetess, and one of our favorite storytellers. Smith’s New York roots — as well as her artistic ones — run deep. After all, the lady’s been creating culture in one form or another for the past 45-odd years. With her National Book Award-winning 2010 memoir, Just Kids, as well as her poetry, Smith has made an everlasting mark on our cultural history — and that’s not even counting her poetic music, mind you. She’s currently working on a crime novel set in London.

20. E.L. Doctorow

Born in the Bronx and named after Edgar Allan Poe, E.L. Doctorow has published a slew of highly regarded novels, from Ragtime, which received the first National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976, to the National Book Award-winning World’s Fair, to The March, which received the 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award, the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, all of them humming with the shared sense of American history and its connection to the modern world. One of the writers most often associated with New York City, Doctorow seems endlessly fascinated with the place, setting the majority of his novels there — whether in a strictly realistic New York or not. In 1998, Bill Clinton selected him for a National Humanities Medal, and this year, he was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

19. Jonathan Lethem

The notoriously genre-bending Lethem is a Brooklyn writer through and through, no matter how much he tries to involve the other coast (and even given his recent teaching gig at Pomona). After publishing a few genre novels in the early years of his career (his delightful first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music, was a sci-fi potboiler that featured a talking kangaroo), he gained mainstream success with 1999’s Motherless Brooklyn, a brilliant literary detective story that won the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Gold Dagger award for crime fiction. A film adaptation, both directed by and starring Edward Norton, is slated to hit the big screen next year. His next novel, Dissident Gardens, is also set to be published in October 2013.

18. Edward Albee

One of America’s greatest living playwrights, the eminent Edward Albee has received three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama — and was robbed of a fourth, for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, when the prize jury was overruled by the advisory committee. With Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Albee gave us one of the most iconic couples of all time, and with many of his other works has continued to push the boundaries of experimental drama, taking a sharp, unsympathetic eye to the modern human condition. Known for his narrative power and biting, perfectly crafted dialogue, Albee has been influencing the stage, and our culture at large, for more than 50 years — and counting.

17. Gay Talese

Gay Talese is a veritable lion of literary journalism, who has written 11 books of reportage and criticism on the American landscape, from The New York Times, where he was a reporter, to the Mafia and the Italian-American experience. But more importantly, he is a writer who by all accounts changed the face of reporting as we know it. In one of his most famous and groundbreaking articles, 1966’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” Talese followed Sinatra around for months without ever getting to speak with him, but instead talking to everyone around him, building his story from what he could wring out of the singer’s hangers-on and observe himself. The piece, published in Esquire, was an immediate sensation, has been dubbed by Vanity Fair as “the greatest literary-nonfiction story of the 20th century,” and is still widely studied.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Emerging (although hardly that, since he is well past the “arrived” stage) is Jonathan Franzen.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

I’m glad for him that he (Roth) is retiring, and as for his readers (me, for example) I can always go back and re-read his great body of work, and plan to.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a New Yorker magazine assignment and also a long work on my longtime (54-yr) marriage, under contract to Knopf.

Photo by Joyce Tenneson.

16. Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri, whose debut short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, has captured the imagination of thousands in her beautifully spare, pitch-perfect but unrelenting portrayals of the Indian-American experience, building a heartfelt, if sometimes dissonant bridge between the two cultures. Her first novel, The Namesake, was adapted into a successful film in 2006. In 2010, Barack Obama appointed her to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

15. Paul Auster

Not only is Paul Auster an important writer who happens to live in New York, he is an important writer to New York, setting several (and arguably the best) of his works there: The New York Trilogy, The Brooklyn Follies, Moon Palace. Auster’s distinctive, highly lucid style blends detective fiction with high-concept postmodernism and metafiction, using the traditionally campy form to plumb the depths of identity, language, and failure, and this coupled with his subject matter — often a young artistic man in mourning, down on his luck, involved with things he doesn’t quite understand — has garnered him hordes of dedicated readers.

14. Junot Díaz

Rarely has a contemporary author written with the same kind of humor, panache and seriousness about the American immigrant experience as Junot Díaz, whose Dominican-American heritage informs his work — but who is really writing for anyone who has ever been a teenager, a lover, a member of a family or a stranger in a strange land. The bestselling author won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and just this year was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant.

Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?

Alexander Chee. He’s the fire, in my opinion. And the light. Edinburgh, his first novel, is unstoppable. And I hear he’s got a second one on the way.

How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?

If it’s true, the man has done his job and mightily. If it’s not true: better.

What’s next for you?

I’m trying to write another novel.

13. Janet Malcolm

“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible,” begins Malcolm’s most famous book, The Journalist and the Murderer. Suffice it to say, Malcolm has pushed some buttons over the course of her career, including the time she was publicly raked over the coals in a 1984 lawsuit, when the subject of The Freud Archives claimed she had fabricated quotes. The woman, let’s admit it, is caustic, harsh, sometimes even cruel, not only to her subjects, but to the incidental characters of her non-fiction. But she has also written some of the most brilliant, insightful, take-no-prisoners non-fiction of our age, laying brutally bare everyone and everything in her path — Sylvia Plath, Freud, Journalism, the list goes on. So if she refuses the idea of “putting a person’s feelings above a text’s necessities,” can we really blame her?

12. Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe is a horse of many colors. Sure, maybe not in his wardrobe, but definitely in his legacy: Wolfe is one of the figureheads of the New Journalism movement, a “man from mars,” a sixties cultural icon, a pugnacious modern literary giant, and, of course, a celebrated novelist whose debut novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, is an essential New York City book if ever there was one. In 2010, Wolfe was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He’s also been credited with making popular a variety of terms, including “the right stuff.” Guess you know it when you’ve got it.

11. Philip Gourevitch

A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1997 and one of the best journalistic minds in the country, Philip Gourevitch has written with sparkling intelligence about subjects large and small — from the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, the Iraq War, and Abu Ghraib to debt collectors, arranged marriages in Queens, and the late, great James Brown. His first book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Guardian‘s first book award, and several others. Since then, he has written two others, A Cold Case and The Ballad of Abu Ghraib, and served as the editor of The Paris Review between 2005 and 2010.

10. Tony Kushner

The top playwright on our list, Kushner won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his groundbreaking magnum opus Angels in America, a frank portrayal of homosexuality and American culture in the mid-’80s. Other topics he’s tackled: Afghanistan, capitalism, fascism, Maurice Sendak. He specializes in the marginalized, the misunderstood, and the deeply human, able to take on the world and tell the most minute, personal stories all at once. He also wrote the screenplay for this year’s highly acclaimed Lincoln.

9. Zadie Smith

Smith took the literary world by storm in 2000 with her debut novel White Teeth, and again with On Beauty in 2005, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and won the Orange Prize for fiction. In a way that is perhaps fitting for a British-born novelist who splits her time between London and New York, her works, like this year’s long-awaited blockbuster novel NW, examine place, family, the way average people are connected and the way they clash — and the many ways that those two states feed into one another.

8. Jonathan Franzen

Franzen’s epic, sprawling novels about the state of American culture and family, plus his rather crotchety worldview have turned him into what is probably the closest thing to a true literary celebrity in contemporary America. Now a ubiquitous household name, in 2010 he became the first novelist in over a decade to grace the cover of Time, accompanied by the headline “Great American Novelist.” Indeed, that year Freedom won the National Book Award as well as the hearts of millions of readers across America. True, Franzen has inspired much criticism and controversy along with his praise, but then again, most important figures do.

7. Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan wrote our hands-down favorite book of 2010. That fact doesn’t make her important on its own, of course — it’s more that A Visit From the Goon Squad was everybody else’s favorite book of 2010, too, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award and garnering accolades from almost everywhere. And that doesn’t even factor in her triumphant, if somewhat quieter, earlier body of work. Unclassifiable, flexible, and complicated, her fiction is filled with hidey-holes and trapdoors, mirror images and family trees, as Egan marries her tricky Nabokovian sensibilities to her ability to scoop out the bottom of your heart with a story.

6. Don DeLillo

DeLillo is one of those rare authors who manage to be both cult heroes and mainstream successes, without tarnishing their reputation in either sphere. The author of an impressive portfolio of novels (White Noise, Cosmopolis, Libra, Mao II), short stories, essays, and even plays, and the recipient of nearly as many awards, from the Guggenheim to the Pulitzer to the National Book Award, not to mention the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, DeLillo has shaped the face of fiction as we know it. Earlier this year, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said “I think my work is influenced by the fact that we’re living in dangerous times. If I could put it in a sentence, in fact, my work is about just that: living in dangerous times.” It seems that’s all the times are, these days.

5. Thomas Pynchon

A recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, almost every one of the notoriously private author’s novels have been received as classics, from his debut V., which was a finalist for the National Book Award, to 1974’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which won that prize, to the insanely good Mason & Dixon. Though some critics described his most recent work, Inherent Vice, as “Pynchon Lite,” the man remains a giant of American letters, an enigmatic grandfather haunting the backs of our literary imaginations. His writing style, calculated and manic in turns, often blending historical fiction, black comedy, and experimental literature, remains one of the world’s best.

4. Salman Rushdie

The author of several novels, collections, and two very charming children’s books, Rushdie is well-loved by many for his deft combinations of historical fiction and magical realism, as well as his incisive post-colonial view and the flat-out ambition of his literary works. Like many of the other authors on this list, Rushdie is no stranger to literary laudations: not only did he win the Booker for Midnight’s Children, but the novel was also chosen as Booker of Bookers on the award’s 25th anniversary, and The Best of the Booker, celebrating 40 years of Booker prizes. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, garnered a different kind of attention, causing high controversy in the Muslim world and resulting in a fatwa requiring Rushdie’s execution on sight — a terrible thing, to be sure, but also indelible proof of the power of Rushdie’s prose. This year, he published Joseph Anton: A Memoir, which recounts his time in hiding.

3. Martin Amis

Though a recent transplant to our fair city — Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill to be exact — there’s no ignoring the crotchety, caustic author or his decidedly mordant humor about the modern condition, whether in London or New York or anywhere in between. Most famous for his incredible 1984 novel Money, as well as his many works of essays and journalism, Amis is an undisputed master of the English language, and his vivid, idiosyncratic style has inspired and influenced readers and writers across the globe.

2. Joan Didion

What to say about the incredible, essential, incomparable Joan Didion? Her prose is ruthless and pristine, each essay an open-heart surgery on the state of American culture, each sentence elegant and true. Known for her investigative literary journalism, her fiction, and, most recently, her heartbreaking memoirs about the loss of her husband and daughter, Didion has shaped the way thousands see their country — and, of course, themselves. Her 2005 memoir The Year of Magical Thinking earned her the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and in 2007, Didion received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She has honorary degrees from both Harvard and Yale.

1. Philip Roth

Get out your hankies, friends: the most important writer in New York City has just retired. The beloved elder statesman of literary fiction won the National Book Award for his very first book, Goodbye, Columbus in 1959, and ten years later set the book world spinning with the raunchy, hilarious classic Portnoy’s Complaint. Roth’s works are highly lauded, both for their literary merit and their iconic investigations of Jewish, American, and Jewish-American identity. The author has been showered with almost every award — the Pulitzer, two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle Awards — except, famously and tragically, the Nobel. In 2002, he was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, in 2007 he was bestowed with the first ever PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, and in 2011, he was awarded the biennial Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement.