I have always had mixed feelings about Dave Eggers' McSweeney's and its umbrella of publications. Style is as important as substance, and that bothers me. There is a great essay on Design Observer on the saturation of books and publishing, and it does a particularly excellent job of describing exactly the look and feel of independent publishing houses:
"These publications have a very particular voice and visual appearance both of which derive from the dustier corners of book publishing’s history: the heavily footnoted meanderings of science textbooks, earnest political treatises and tracts, hobby manuals and the like. For many, the ultimate goal is to channel the essence of an out-of-print illustrated pamphlet on the preferred techniques for the propagation of indoor ivy plants. The best-known touchstones of this meticulously arcane tone can be found in the satirical output of the McSweeney’s empire."
And yet, for all the criticism -- which McSweeney's tends to gather like a lightning rod, for all this reduction of the creativity that is The Internet Tendency and The Believer and Wholphin and everything else they do, we would be less than whole without it. McSweeney's combines media in the way NPR airs audio stories on sculpture, but doing so in a tongue-in-cheek fashion and in a unique package. I love, love picking up the three books held in a binder by magnets, and I don't even know why. This is new forms and history with clever writing, and we need it. The internet, most of all, needs it. Unfortunately, we may not have it much longer, because McSweeney's in the midst of a financial hardship.
According to The Trip Wire, "on December 29 their distributor filed for bankruptcy and McSweeney's lost about $130,000. As a result they now are holding a special sale and auction on eBay to help raise funds. Some of the items up for grabs include a personal tour of The Daily Show, original artwork from Chris Ware, Marcel Dzama, David Byrne, and Tony Millionaire; a limited-edition music mix from Nick Hornby; rare early issues of the quarterly, direct from Sean Wilsey's closet; and more. Rumor has it there is even a Dave Eggers's painting of George W. Bush as a double amputee, from the cover of Issue 14."
If there is oversaturation of anything, it is creative work on the internet. McSweeney's is a bastion of quality, and whether its online or in a magazine, we need Eggers' "empire." Although I may be on the fence with it sometimes, McSweeney's is respectable, clever, and fun. Criticize it, but read it and save it, as I will.
Click here for the special sales and auctions.