Mostly (not) on McSweeney's!

A blog for my academic ideas, more or less.

The Thousands

I’ve done some writing today based on The Book and The Girl, and it’s proving quite useful. Teaching obligations meant I didn’t get to spend the full day on it as I would’ve liked, but feel like it’s something worth pursuing.

Just to test the waters, am picking another fable from McSweeney’s 28 and seeing if it can give me anything.

The Thousands, by Daniel Alarc√≥n, has a collective third-person narrative voice, apparently standing for ‘The Thousands’. Immediately, this is like McSweeney’s. Their editorial pages use a collective ‘we’, though the effect of this is probably different. The fable seems to actually be narrated by a collective, to represent everyone, whereas the McSweeney’s voice is more of a pretense at collectiveness, and is more masking an individual voice with a personification of the journal, of its McSweeney’sness.

There is some analogue with the McSweeney’s project in the narrative, in the thousands of people putting together a new city from the scraps of the old. McSweeney’s was originally a journal of orphaned literature. Things that were rejected elsewhere. And though that soon changed, when people started to write specifically for them, it is still a home for things that don’t fit elsewhere. The message of The Thousands seems to be on this line, too.

What else? The defiance of the thousands, their rejection by the city, but then eventually the city/government give in and let them live in peace. Reading McSweeney’s subculturally, as representing a minority but in such a way that it becomes powerful, while still retaining its characteristics that made it special as a minority.


Filed under: fables, mcsweeneys, ,

The Book and the Girl

Story by Brian Evenson.

Summary: Girl has a book. Nuclear holocaust happens. Girl takes book with her when escaping. Girl remakes book as various practical items she needs on journey: shoes, food, blanket. Book becomes so fragmented it cannot help when something bad happens at the end.

How can I use this for a narrative about McSweeney’s?

There’s an obvious possibility in the recycling of the book as objects. McSweeney’s does a lot with finding new uses for the book, or giving the book a new form. The girl as the ideal reader of McSweeney’s, it is her desire that shapes the form of the book.

McSweeney’s/The Book as embodying a two-way relationship, responding to the demands/need of its reader(s). By analysing McSweeney’s we could therefore see what its readers want. Or a representation of what the creators of McSweeney’s think its readers want. The Book in the fable as a perfected version of this relationship, anticipating the desires of The Girl, though The Book has no way of articulating these, communicating these to The Girl. McSweeney’s does have the facility, the capacity, to communicate with their reader.

The Girl as a suffering reader. Minority, subcultural.

The ending as pessimistic for the fate of McSweeney’s?

This bird’s got legs! Try the exercise with more fables tomorrow, but like this one.

Filed under: fables, mcsweeneys, , ,

About Me:

My name is Kevin O'Neill and I am in the fifth year of a part-time PhD in the English Department of Goldsmiths, London, UK. I used to teach undergrad classes there (now: not, because there are other PhD students who need teaching experience). I work (most of the time) in the Oxfam shop in Dalston because few people get paid to do humanities PhDs.

My research centres around the literary journal McSweeney's. My interest is developing into what McSweeney's tells us about two separate (but I guess related) fields: 1) literary institutions 2) American cultural production, more broadly. This blog was initially about my PhD but is now a more general thinking space.

See right for my flickr/twitter/delicious feeds, then below for other versions of me.

Email is looceefir on gmail.


June 2017
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