Tuesday, 3 July 2007

getting what she paid for.

I hadn't heard of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern (have I been living under a rock, or has it not made it to Oz?), an innovative literary journal edited by Dave Eggers. I found this best of in Melbourne, and the price was right ($5), so I bought it.

I loved Dave Eggers' 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius' (well, actually, I hated it the first time I read it, and loved it the second time), and kind of liked 'You Shall Know Our Velocity' (but I've only read it the once), and then lost track, so it all looked quite promising. When I did a little 'research' on McSweeney's it sounded awesome - a literary journal which tries to outdo itself with each edition. The fifth edition, for example, had 3 different covers and 4 different dustjackets, while the sixth came with a cd by They Might Be Giants of songs to accompany the stories. In the beginning McSweeney's only accepted articles that had been rejected by other journals, and since then it's published a lot of the bright young things. It sounds so cool I'm still kind of considering subscribing.

But I'm afraid 'The Best of McSweeney's' was kind of disappointing. There was only one piece of fiction that I really enjoyed - John Hodgman's 'Fire: The Next Sharp Stick?'- a story about the discovery of fire, written in the voice of a modern day inventor trying to hawk his wares to big business. I also enjoyed the book's two non fiction pieces - Zev Borow's 'Haole Go Home!: Small Gestures from the Hawaiian Secessionist Movement' , and Gary Greenberg's 'In The Kingdom of the Unabomber'. Most of the pieces were decent, but on the whole, I didn't find any of them particularly inspiring, clever, well-written, innovative, or any of the other things I was hoping for. Is one great piece and a couple of interesting ones enough to balance out a whole book? Can I say it was bad when bits of it were really quite good, or should I say it was quite good, when bits of it were really quite forgettable? I don't know. I guess I got my money's worth, but if you want to read it, I recommend you borrow my copy (which by the way, looks exactly like the one pictured here, except the cover is blue and yellow, not purple and yellow).

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