When 27-year-old novelist Sally Rooney became the youngest-ever winner of the Costa Book Prize last week, it was to deafening cheers of critical acclaim that have characterised her brief career. Rooney has already been heralded as “the first great millennial novelist”, and a “Salinger for the Snapchat generation”. And these Snapchatting millennials have since been overwhelming booksellers in the rush to read their author, prompting shops to advertise that they still have copies of her novel, Normal People, in stock. Yet, for all her obvious talent, the fanfare around Rooney’s award made this millennial’s heart sink slightly.
The slightly frenzied reaction to Rooney seems to be symptomatic of the way we now greet achievements by young people. Last year, another 27-year-old author, Daisy Johnson, became the youngest person to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize for her debut novel, Everything Under. Likewise, some of 17-year-old Autumn de Forest’s expressionist paintings have been valued at $7m (£5.5m), poet Ocean Vuong was only 28 when he won the TS Eliot prizefor his debut collection in 2017, and Christopher Paolini published the first of his bestselling Inheritance series when he was in his teens. It seems we increasingly celebrate youthfulness as a marker of success in and of itself; Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 list began in 2017. This year’s cohort includes 11-year-old designer Kheris Rogers and seven-year-old “activist” Havana Chapman-Edwards.
Read the opinion in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 14/01/19]