Fiction writers don't often get credit for their influence on the world -- it is often invisible and unheralded. But among those on Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, released Thursday, were two surprising names: short story maven George Saunders and novelist Hilary Mantel.
They keep company with "Leaders," (President Obama, Wayne LaPierre, Kim Jong Un), "Titans" (Jay-Z, LeBron James, Elon Musk) and "Icons" (Malala Yousafzai, Lena Dunham, Gabrielle Giffords) whom Time judged have held sway this year. The two writers are included in the "Artists" category, which also includes Christina Aguilera, Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Lawrence, among others.
Poet and memoirist Mary Karr profiles Saunders in the Time issue, writing that his work "is a stiff tonic for the vapid agony of contemporary living -- great art from the greatest guy." Karr praises Saunders' modesty, humor, and "bristly mustache of a Russian cavalry officer." Saunders, a master of the short form (most recently the story “Fox 8”), has received a great deal of attention this year since the publication of his collection "The Tenth of December.”
Mantel is profiled by biographer Claire Tomalin, who praises the British writer's "power, wit, and intelligence." Mantel's inclusion in the Time 100 comes as the cherry on top of a very good week -- one that saw the novelist shortlisted for both the Women's Prize for Fiction and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for her book "Bringing Up the Bodies."
A large number of the other honorees have also written books in the course of their careers. New author Sheryl Sandberg is included in the "Titans" list (no surprise there -- her book "Lean In" not only generated its own media frenzy pre-publication, but it also now tops both the bestseller lists), with a profile by feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Comedian Mindy Kaling, whose second book should be out, as she put it, "in like a year and a half," was also included. Lena Dunham and Malala Yousafzai, who are also on the list, have books coming out later this year.