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Beyond Sally Rooney: A Trio of Contemporary Authors Reshaping Millennial Literature

Following the sensation of Normal People and its phenomenal success, Sally Rooney has undoubtedly become a staple of millennial literature. However, the increasing critique, whether a thoughtful dissection or mere envy of fame, invites an opportunity to shine a light on other dynamic voices within the genre. Rooney’s narratives and her characters’ deeply introspective nature resonate with many; however, the literary world is vast, and other authors also capture the quintessence of millennial existence. If your curiosity extends beyond the well-thumbed pages of Conversations with Friends and Normal People, consider delving into the works of these three novelists.

Ben Lerner:

Despite being celebrated on home turf and landing a Pulitzer Prize nomination, Ben Lerner’s recognition in the UK doesn’t quite match his American acclaim. Initially a poetic prodigy, Lerner’s prose is laced with lyrical rhythms. He’s known for his expressive, semi-autobiographical trilogy, each part narrated by “Ben Lerner” or his fictional counterpart, Adam Gordon, who shares a backstory with the author. Leaving the Atocha Station chronicles Gordon’s stints abroad on a fellowship, layered with self-scrutiny and hubris, painting a quintessential millennial portrait. The quasi-sequel, 10:04, introduces us to a New York-based Ben with a striking resemblance to Gordon’s psyche, as he matures through life’s realities. With The Topeka School, Lerner takes a step back in time to Clinton-era America, weaving a tale through multiple perspectives, exploring the roots of the past years’ societal upheaval in the US.

Jia Tolentino:

Jia Tolentino, a prominent figure at the New Yorker, probes the millennial consciousness in her essay collection, Trick Mirror. The book contemplates our generation’s uneasy relationship with reality, attributing much of this to the Internet’s pervasive influence—a theme expertly dissected in her essay ‘The I in Internet.’ Tolentino’s finesse shines when she intertwines her societal observations with heartfelt storytelling. From analyzing the illusions of events like Fyre Festival to offering thoughtful perspectives on university rape culture, her ability to turn personal anecdotes into examinations of self-deception is unparalleled. Although the essay ‘Ecstasy’ might steer too far into the writer’s personal revelations, the collection as a whole is an enlightening expedition into our digitally complicated lives.

Rob Doyle:

Rob Doyle, a key figure among Ireland’s burgeoning literary talent, brings a vibrant unpredictability to his narrative in Threshold. Drawing inspiration from writers like Lerner and Geoff Dyer, Doyle crafts the chronicles of an artistic wanderer named ‘Rob,’ who lives a life rife with cultural musings, worldly adventures, and philosophical ruminations. This narrative tapestry lacks clear structure yet is compelling through episodes involving travel, essay-writing, and encounters with psychedelic substances. But Doyle brings forth a brooding depth, with a tendency to delve into the darker corners of human nature, alluding to the philosophies of Nietzsche and Cioran as a nod to millennials’ more cynical tendencies. As ‘Rob’ admits, his avoidance of definitive choices has led him to the precipice of an isolated future, a poignant reflection of the millennial diaspora’s more impulsive, unrestrained spirit.

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