McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, No. 14

Edited by Dave Eggers
ISBN: 1932416129

This issue of McSweeney’s packs many short stories, a few nonfiction pieces, the third act of a play, some letters (including one from an actual Timothy McSweeney), and numerous small illustrations of nineteenth century flying vehicles into a novel-sized trade paperback.

I liked the two short nonfiction pieces by Lawrence Weschler (author of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder), but I suspect I’d like just about anything by Weschler. I also enjoyed, in a very different vein, Joshuah Bearman’s piece on the gerbil swarm in China. Yes, the gerbil story is nonfiction.

The incredibly un-Muppetlike “Pigs in Space” by Claire Light, “A Child’s Book of Sickness and Death” by Chris Adrian, “Civilization” by Ryan Boudinot, “Deep Wells, USA” by Chris Bachelder, “The People” by Lindsay Carleton, and “The Death of Mustango Salvaje” by Jessica Anthony were my favorite stories. Which goes to show I like strange, slightly demented, creepy fiction, I suppose. Also, apparently I enjoy pervasive, nameless menace and female bullfighters.

None of these stories are written by people I recall hearing about before. That is one of the strengths of endeavors like McSweeney’s — introducing writers to a wider audience. (Strangely, I didn’t care too much for the work here by the established fiction writers: Jim Shepard, T.C. Boyle, and Denis Johnson.) Based on the strength of this collection, I’d trust the folks at McSweeney’s to show me new things again. Recommended.

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