This has been a rocky decade, to say the least, and as many writers showed us just after the Sept. 11 attacks, we often can’t formulate our best thoughts about traumatic events until much, much later.

As for fiction, the most exciting thing to emerge in the 2000s has been the integration of genre elements into literary fiction: You no longer have to choose between good writing and good storytelling. But if the preceding two decades have seen the dismantling of the tyranny of rigorous realism, there are still masters (like Mary Gaitskill) working in that vein, and following it into rich new territory.

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