Moondoggy Recommends #7

McSweeney's #22
McSweeney's might very well be the largest independent publishing house in North America and is responsible for four regular publications: the not-quite-quarterly journal Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, the daily-updated literature and humor site McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the monthly magazine The Believer, and the new quarterly DVD magazine, Wolphin. They also run two additional imprints: Believer Books and Collins Library, which publishes unusual out-of-print books.

What I love about McSweeney's is that they are constantly reinventing the book form (one of their past issues comes in a cigar box, another looks like a pile of mail) and pushing the boundaries of creative experimentation. Their most recent issue, McSweeney's #22 continues this playfulness with a three-part exercise in restriction, publishing three books held together by magnets.

In Book 1, a number of writers, including Miriam Toews, Sam Lipsyte, and many more, are given writing prompts provided by a list of unused and unusual story premises (for instance "girl and giraffe", "fairy who fell for a wax dummy", "girl whose ear is so sensitive she can hear radio") taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up. The stories in this collection are great and I was debating over which ones to recommend as highlights but since they're all outstanding, just read the whole thing, you won't be disappointed.

The president of France's experimental writing group, Oulipo (which stands for "Ouvroir de littérature potentielle", translated roughly as "workshop of potential literature") provides the basis for Book 2, offering North American readers a glimpse into the group's current experiments with linguistic constraints. Take a look at Paul Fournel's "Once Upon a Colony", which reminded me of those great Choose Your Own Adventure books from my childhood.

Lastly, the quarterly generally doesn't publish poetry but Dominic Luxford, a recent intern at McSweeney's, suggested that indeed it should be published and so was given the green light to introduce poetry to McSweeney's readers in an usual way. The result was Book 3, where contemporary poets are asked to pick a poem of their own and one of another poet, who will then do the same, and so on, until a poetry chain is made. I was most excited about this section because it includes works by poets I really admire like Michael Ondaaje, James Tate, Charles Simic, John Ashbery, and also introduced me to poets I have never heard of before.

By picking up McSweeney's #22 you won't just be getting a quarterly, but rather, three diverse and entertaining books for the price of one. What a bargain!

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