Judge This One by Its Cover

By Blincoe, Nicholas | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), April 12, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Judge This One by Its Cover


Blincoe, Nicholas, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


Fiction Good things come in cool packages... McSweeney's 29 ed David Eggers Hamish Hamilton Pounds 20

Many of the stories in the journal McSweeney's Quarterly Concern emerge like fading transmissions from parallel universes: accounts of backwoods primitivism from Laura Hendrix and Nathaniel Minton, or tales of psychic monkeys and fish by J Erin Sweeney and John Thorson. A disconnection with the idea of history underpins Ben Greenman's account of a failed institution, as well as contributions from Nelly Reifler and Peter Orner: she declares that "Nothing is worse than the vision of your own obsolescence," while he describes his generation as "nostalgic pygmies".

Back in 2001, when McSweeney's was only two years old, the New York Times ran an excoriating review under the heading "Too Cool for Words" arguing that the defining style is "minor-key... unbearably whimsical" and that the stories are secondary to the packaging. Nothing much has changed in the intervening years. And yet... McSweeney's continues to excite. Much of the reason lies with editor David Eggers, whose belief in the transcendent value of literature would put Leavis to shame. He works to keep it alive, for instance, through his 826 National foundation that offers writing classes to inner-city schools.

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