Monday, March 06, 2006

9. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern No. 15

edited by Dave Eggers

I’ve come to a decision. After resisting McSweeney’s for a long time out of my dislike of Dave Eggers’s writing and after finally reading an issue and finding a lot more than Eggers’s voice inside and after reading several more issues that leave me wanting to continue with the literary journal, I think I’m going to subscribe. Not only subscribe, but drop my subscription to Granta in conjunction. It’s like this: Both subscriptions are fairly pricey, although deals when you add up the cost of each individual issue. Both journals are the size of regular books and take a regular-book amount of time for me to read. Both, I feel, are mentally good for me and keep me up on current writers. But, when it comes down to it, I just enjoy McSweeney’s more. I feel like I should like Granta more than I do and that it’s better for me than McSweeney’s, maybe because it’s British, and I find stories that I like in each issue, but as a whole I’m far more excited when I pick up an unread issue of McSweeney’s and continuing to read Granta is like forcing myself to drink black coffee. I can tolerate it and sometimes I even want it, but the added bit of vanilla creamer that is McSweeney’s is nine times out of ten more satisfying. Until I have a significantly greater amount of time to devote to reading, I’m sorry Granta, but I’m going to have to let you go.

I am, however, going to continue to report on my McSweeney’s here, not just because I don’t have enough time to not count it as part of my 52, but also because I get excited about the writing in here and want to report on it. Expect more issues throughout the year as I try to get myself caught up on the ones I’ve missed.

Issue No. 15 contains the usual batch of new short stories, but rounding out the second half of the book is a collection of stories all by Icelandic writers. Talk about your global market – I don’t know that I’ve read anything Icelandic or even thought about the literary output from that country. I can’t say I really got into that section of the book, but I did enjoy Gudbergur Bergsson’s (sorry…you’ll have to insert the diacritical marks in your head) “A Room Underground,” about the male narrator’s affair with a married man and the tension and longing felt when they’re not together. Bragi Olafsson’s “My Room” told of a man going to back to view the apartment in which he grew up, only to find that it’s changed and he’s been shut out from the life inside it. Andri Snaer Magnason’s “Interference” was a great sci-fi type story involving people selling themselves as advertisements, yelling things like “Ice Cold Coke!” at passersby. In this futuristic story, people no longer need wires to connect them to phones or television, but the catch is that they’re not as liberated as they’d like to believe.

I feel guilty that I really did enjoy the American section of the book more. (I’m not xenophobic, I swear!) I really liked Steven Millhauser’s “A Precursor of the Cinema,” especially since I wasn’t entirely sure if it was fiction at first. The story involves the work of Harlan Crane who created art that seemed to move. Showings of his painting were given in which the audience would witness dancers moving against the still background and then seeming to resume their previously stationary conditions. The showings go awry when a dark painting gives the audience what seems to be a taste of death. Judy Budnitz’s “Sales” also struck me as it humorously described a family who trapped door-to-door salesmen in their yard, taunting them, stealing their free samples, and letting them defend themselves against each other. Like “Interference,” it presents an interesting parody on advertising and the way companies try to garner attention.

So I’m a convert. I remain steadfast in my opinion that Eggers’s writing is not for me, but I’m getting behind the McSweeney’s thing. Sorry, Granta. Perhaps when I have that wonderful job allowing me to read for at least two solid hours every morning, we’ll meet again.


Anonymous Heliologue said...

I've been meaning for a long time to subscribe to MQC. I'm a fan of Eggers in general, and and Created in Darkness By Troubled Americans was excellent.

I suppose the only thing that prevents me from subscribing is McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Exxie said...

Yeah, but the Internet McSweeney's isn't nearly as pretty as the paper version. The books are gorgeous, which is part of the reason why I'm drawn to them. Plus, I like the physicalitiy of books over reading on my computer.

7:34 AM  

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