Saturday, March 10, 2007

Beautiful McSweeneys

Unswayed as I have been by recent Mcsweeneys, the latest - issue 22 - is a beautiful gem. In a lovely hardback cover, 3 "mini" books are collected together and held there by magnets. Of course! A selection by the wonderful OuLiPo; stories inspired by a list of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unused story ideas; and most intrigueing of all for McSweeneys, a poetry collection - which, admirably (and somewhat OuLiPo-like) creates "poetry chains" by choosing 10 poems by 10 poets, getting them to choose one of their own poems and then to choose another poet, creating an anthology (keep with me) of 100 poems by 50 poets linked in 10 chains. The sheer beauty of it all is breathtaking, and makes me wonder again, how come the Americans can do this sort of stuff, and we can't? Go on, I'll start...


P.S. Appropriate to mention here, Granta's new edition, Best Young American Novelists. I've felt for a while that just as we no longer read fiction in translation, we don't really take much interest in American fiction, and McSweeney's has at least created a reason to. Whether this new list of under 35-year-old writers will do so, is another question. There seem so many interchangeable writers nowadays. There are only 2 of these writers who featured in "The Burned Children of America" anthology a couple of years ago, perhaps on age alone. According to the Guardian lots of these writers haven't written a novel yet, so the whole premise is a bit flakey for a start. (Though I've always loved how Helen Simpson gets on every British list, deservedly, yet still refuses to write a novel!) More flakey, is that "class" is the great unspoken in American literature (and society), yet, at the same time a majority of these writers are "ivy league." Ho hum. I'm concerned now. It's a truth universally acknowledged by parents of a certain financial standing that paying for your kids to get into a posh school/college will give them a bit of a leg up. So, perhaps that's why we've got all these precocious under-35 year olds. That said, as always, I look forward to reading it. Every anthology has its moments.

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