Is McSweeney's Sounding More And More Like Random House?
October 29, 2001 2:21 AM   Subscribe

Is McSweeney's Sounding More And More Like Random House? Or is it just me? As a lifetime subscriber and fan of David Eggers, I'm sickened by the glib, shameless commercialism that now contaminates what was once an interesting website for new writers. What in the hell has happened? Or is the new book-peddling climate just another tiresome take on post-post-post modernism or, more likely, just blatant PR? (Latest example inside)
posted by MiguelCardoso (19 comments total)
Hello everyone. We have good news: Lydia Davis's new collection, Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, is now available. Copies can be had online, though us, or on Amazon, and at most bookstores.

This week, we'll be featuring testimonials from writers and readers about Lydia's work, along with excerpts from the new book, and reviews past and present.

Does this sound like the McSweeney's of yore? I don't think so. There's still a lot of good stuff there but, taken together with Eggers's frenzied self-promotion, it sort of puts you off. Eggers is a good writer. Why does he do it? Beats me. It's just sad, IMO.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:26 AM on October 29, 2001

The issue here is that while remaining a safe haven for good writers, McSweeneys also is trying to be taken seriously as a publishing company. After being called "hip publishing company of the moment" by some newspaper (Wa. Post, maybe?), they're certainly going to have to work for it.

The book is really fantastic and deserves the praise (mine arrived two days ago, I'm about a third of the way through), and given their history, I hope they can manage to let a little commercialism in, just to keep it going.

My hope is that they'll be able to keep their book-publishing arm going, but keep it seperate enough from the Quarterly arm that it'l remain vital. I suppose given this trend we'll see when issue seven comes out... Lord only knows when that'll be, though.

One might note that they have put a moratorium on print submissions at this point, but I couldn't say whether it bodes good or bad.

Off-Topic Side to Miguel: Hast thou any of issues 1, 2, 3? There are a couple stories I've been aching to get my hands on copies of, and I would actually do just about anything...
posted by j.edwards at 2:35 AM on October 29, 2001

I began reading, months ago in fact, AHWOSG. Then happened upon some (now lost) webpage by a highschool student or somesuch decrying what a prick he was, as he'd flaked on an interview (?). Read some further interviews. And now refuse to finish that book or patronize any of his other shit (McSweeney's). He's a bombastic prick that I want nothing to do with. Including finishing his book. Bought it second hand Eggers! No money fo yu!
posted by crasspastor at 2:37 AM on October 29, 2001

Crasspastor - If this is what you're talking about, I think it might be a joke?! Might be wrong though...
posted by bifter at 4:04 AM on October 29, 2001

bifter: I don't know - I think crasspastor is referring to the general phenomenon, like me. But you should certainly read palegirl's post here on MetaFilter and read the first link for one of the most annoying and fascinating e-mail exchanges of all time. The resulting thread is particularly juicy, too...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:35 AM on October 29, 2001

good thread miguel... grr, i tried relentlessly to find this link to an interview of an Eggers interview where he goes off on the guy for implying the whole "selling out" thing... yeah, he's definitely got some with there.
posted by lotsofno at 5:07 AM on October 29, 2001

That Eggers "keeping it real" interview was discussed some here earlier. In fact, doing a MeFi search on "eggers" makes me think we have an obsession with Eggers to rival those with Nader and Ashcroft.
posted by rodii at 5:40 AM on October 29, 2001

Oh my God, they're selling books! Booooks!
posted by raysmj at 6:58 AM on October 29, 2001

Well put raysmj....

That 'Eggers "keeping it real" interview' f-ing rocks. Well worth ten minutes of your day. And heavily recommended for anyone who has trouble understanding why it might make sense for a publishing company to, like, try and sell some books, kinda... (Whooooo.... bit space age that concept isn't it....)

And why it doesn't make someone the anti-christ or a traitor or some capitalist lackey to try and put themselves in the situation where they can continue to do the good work they have been doing.

READ IT! It's possibly one of my favourite pieces of writing ever.....

NB. Please rodii's link was out of date...
posted by Mr Ed at 7:29 AM on October 29, 2001

The kid you're thinking of might be Gary Baum, a California HS student who posted stuff about Eggers (and the cult of Eggers) for the last couple of years. He's at

You might also be thinking about the exchange he had with some NYT writer over an interview (the whole thing is on the McSwy's website). That's what comes to mind when I think of Eggers and "bombastic prick".

I'm willing to cut him some slack, though, because he does interesting stuff and what else really matters?
posted by ZippityBOP at 7:30 AM on October 29, 2001

bifter/crasspastor -

i can confirm that the the ironminds piece was a (great, in my opinion) joke; I know the (former) publisher pretty well. It was a parody of the NYTimes-related exchange linked to in the palegirl post that Miguel mentioned above.
posted by Sinner at 7:32 AM on October 29, 2001

Please NOTE... Please NOTE... dammit....
posted by Mr Ed at 7:33 AM on October 29, 2001

...he does interesting stuff and what else really matters?

Exactly. Separate the work from the press. After reading crasspastor's post above, I did a little mental exercise. How many of my favorite writers, musicians, directors, actors, etc. would I want to hang out with? Very few, but all I have to go on are interviews and press snippets. I can only imagine how big an ass I'd make of myself if I were put on the spot and asked to defend my work. If nothing else, the Eggers - Kirkpatrick e-mail exchange illustrates how distorted things can get.
posted by gimli at 8:38 AM on October 29, 2001

j.edwards:: I have McSwys 2 and 3. I'd be happy to photocopy the articles you want and mail them to you. I am also please to smugly state that I was one of the former Might subscribers that got the royal screwgie by Dave and the boys.

After falling madly in love with Might, they packed it in and shut it down and sped off with my subscription money (I had just renewed). BTW, anyone but me think the last issue was a joke? All of that "well, we have to shut down" business? I so TOTALLY thought it was a joke on par with the "Adam Rich" debacle.

I've been following McSweeney's since the second issue. I collect them mostly as cultural artifacts. Sometimes the "cutesy" gets in the way of the reading (Issue #5) and sometimes the text neesd the "cutesy" (Issue #6).

They've pissed me off several times (that Neal Pollack thing was the same joke over and over), and they've made me giddy with glee (They Might be Giants and Arthur Bradford).

I'll keep loving them, as long as they are different. If they become, as Miguel suggests, Random House-like, well...that'd be a sad day. Let's hope they keep it weird.
posted by ColdChef at 9:34 AM on October 29, 2001

(Whoops, thanks for the update, Ed. I didn't even think to check the link, just copy'n'pasted it.)
posted by rodii at 11:07 AM on October 29, 2001

miguel, i am failing to see the problem. there are countless examples of 'shameless commercialism' crowding our collective mindspace every day, and mcsweeneys is hardly one of them.

small text ads promoting books they have published? might as well let google's or metafilter's ads break your heart.

the front page of mcsweeney's web is designed to immediately draw the eye to the beginning of the latest short story - published in its entirety on that page.

a took a look at the RandomHouse entity you disdain so, and found that it is in no way apparent that online fiction is as readily available, or even considered a part of its web function. mcsweeneys still makes fiction and artistry its modus operandi, and considering a small text self-promotion "contamination" which ruins interest, creates a "book-peddling climate" etc - is simply cause to open your eyes a bit.

mcsweeneys remains a refreshing haven in a truly commercialized culture.
posted by gomez at 11:14 AM on October 29, 2001

As a side note: (on the subject of selling out) Might magazine got a little acclaim by their "selling out" issue. They printed an ad on the front cover and each page of the magazine was "sponsored" by another advertiser.

As in: "This week's 'GayWatch' is brought to you by the fine folks of Taco Bell. Make a run for the border."

Very funny...
posted by ColdChef at 11:28 AM on October 29, 2001

That reminds me of Dana Carvey's short-lived tongue-in-cheek sketch comedy show, where each episode was titled after the product of a sponsor. The first Episode was The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show and the next week, The Mug Root Beer Dana Carvey Show. Sponsors didn't appreciate the mocking tone, and Pizza Hut withdrew sponsorship (and the show was canceled before long, no surprise there).

Still, I thought it was a good gag. It seems somehow more subversive to actively embrace "selling out" than it is to decry it.
posted by Down10 at 7:35 PM on October 29, 2001

my favorite blatant "selling out" was the end of this tom green episode... i forget what happens, but tom is talking to his friend and says something like, "No, we don't sell out. There's no selling out here." And then he proceeded to take out a can of Pepsi One and start chugging on it... ah, genius.
posted by lotsofno at 7:41 PM on October 29, 2001

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