The novelist John Warner (The Funny Man), in an act of incredible kindness, sent me a copy of McSweeney’s #4, which he helped to put out years ago. In one of our emails, John offers the following:
It could be the best issue ever, a kind of platonic ideal of the McSweeney’s aesthetic before people started saying that things had a McSweeney’s aesthetic, a more innocent time if you will. My memory is that we were selling them at a live event at the Ethiopian Diamond restaurant in Chicago that we set up to help promote Neal Pollack’s book, and somehow the leftovers wound up in my trunk and I’ve been hauling them place to place ever since. . .
It’s a sort of fun artifact of the early/carefree days of McSweeney’s before Dave was DAVE, and the whole thing was still very haphazard.
It’s difficult to overstate the range of writers here: Lydia Davis, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders, Rick Moody, Haruki Murakami, a three-act play by Denis Johnson, and much, much more:
There are also many short stories, including “On the Set” by John Warner, his second published story:
It’s wonderfully absurd.
To read something hilarious and absurd and ultimately kind of touching, read John’s interview with critic Kevin Morris, who hated The Funny Man.
3 thoughts on “McSweeney’s #4 (Box of Books Acquired 6.14.2012)”
Because of Denis Johnson’s characters words, said and thought, I want to see a performance of his play.
I have a copy of this as well. I subscribed to McSweeney’s and this was the first issue I received. I don’t know if I agree with Warner that this was “before Dave was DAVE” since his first novel came out in paperback around the same time – he was already a literary star. But you’re right about the level of talent in that weird little box. I wasn’t aware of ANY of those writers at the time. I got it out a year ago and I was flipping through it and I was shocked by all of the (now) big names.
McSweeney’s went off the rails for me at some point and I stopped reading the issues as they came in. I think the last one I have is 22 or 23. I was even a Believer subscriber for the first few years, but I lost interest. I still keep an eye on the stuff they publish – still some fantastic stuff coming out of there. I have copies of Levin’s THE INSTRUCTIONS and the Sayles book. The new Eggers novel looks amazing.
I’ve still got a copy of this issue, and I remember it being so fresh and exciting at the time. I agree with Brooks in that McSweeney’s is still publishing some great stuff, but I’ve lost interest in the magazine. The last issue I bought had a story by Stephen King where a guy gets stuck in a port-o-potty. It was OK but nothing that made me want to subscribe.