Sunday, April 10, 2011

Open Your Head

A few years ago, my sister introduced me to McSweeney's when one of her friends had a story published in  Issue 23.  To me, it seemed like McSweeney's was an ultra hip collection of short stories, that felt like a magazine, but looked like a book.  Caren Beilin's story in Issue 23, I'm the Boss So Do What I Say, was fantastic.  I think that even now, 4 years after it came out, I could quote passages from that story, because the imagery was so specific.

This year, when I was searching for other things online, I kept stumbling into McSweeney's Issue 36.  And really, looking at it, how could one not be intrigued?  Here it is:

The box opens, to reveal the contents of this man's head:  A (bad) screenplay, a chapter from a novel, cool post cards, fortunes to cut and insert into cookies, a play, an unfinished novel, a couple things too short to be short stories, and then a book that is more like Issue 23, with short stories by 4 or 5 different authors. Everything was packaged in a clever way, with the screenplay being bound like a real screenplay (or how I would imagine one would look), inside of a plain brown envelope.  The other parts were separately bound with colorful covers, except for the fortunes, which are rolled.  Here is a picture that includes the contents:

I started by reading The Instructions by Adam Levin, which is a  seemingly random chapter from a long novel.  I moved on to Jungle Geronimo in Gay Paree  by Jack "L.P. Eaves" Pendarvis, and Bicycle Built for Two by Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington.  At this point, I almost closed the head and gave up, feeling that I was clearly not hip enough to appreciate McSweeney's.  But, instead, I decided to look at it like a magazine instead of a judgment on my life, and determined that it was OK if I didn't like every piece, just like I don't ever like every article in Vanity Fair.  I'm glad that I didn't give up, because the best was yet to come. 

As I mentioned last post, Michael Chabon's unfinished novel, Fountain City was great.  I also really liked The Domestic Crusaders by Wajahat Ali, which is a play about a Muslim American family that is actually more functional than it realizes.  Probably because I am listening to What is the What by Dave Eggers now, I also appreciated Ma Su Mon which is a non-fiction story of a woman's struggle for freedom in Burma.

All in all, it is absolutely amazing that you can get all of this for $17.03 as of today on Amazon.  Additionally, and even better, it is awesome that McSweeney's is creative enough to come up with this collection.

Next Up:  Occupied City by David Peace

Almost Done Listening To:  What is the What by Dave Eggers

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