Saturday, May 02, 2009

Book Review: "McSweeney's, Vol. 21"

McSweeney's 21 is a collection of short stories by the likes of Chloe Hooper, Joyce Carol Oates, Roddy Doyle, Miranda July and others. The stories are separated by quite amusing Ted L. Nancy-like "Letters to Ray," actual fan mail received by Ray Charles.

The design of this volume is fairly conventional, although according to the editor's note there are actually eight variant cover designs, and "the front cover includes a little flap that can be opened out across the exposed page-edges, allowing for an unending panorama, a revelatory 360-degree immersion into a packed and pointy world." Prior to each story, an artist (Robert Goodin, Leif Parsons, Nate Beaty, Matt Rota) offers a nine-panel graphic representation of the piece.

As I felt after reading McSweeney's 14, I enjoyed some of these more than others, but all were well written. Most managed to have a slightly creepy aspect to them, from a computer salesman's spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to impersonate a doctor, to Oates' take on Mark Twain's famous Angelfish Club and Roddy Doyle's psychotic nanny. The Ray Letters were a welcome break in between the fictional pieces, I found.