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McSweeney's #26 (McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #26)

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  193 ratings  ·  21 reviews
McSweeney's 26 comes in three parts: two small, oblong books of stories by writers large and small (John Brandon, Amanda Davis, Uzodinma Iweala, and eight more), set in regions near and far (Kazakhstan, Bosnia, Spain, Arkansas), and a third book, Where to Invade Next, edited by Stephen Elliott and inspired by actual Pentagon documents, which seeks to give a picture of just ...more
Hardcover, 330 pages
Published January 28th 2008 by McSweeney's
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It's funny to read through the other reviews and see how upset McSweeney's readers get when they have to suffer through something non-literary. Issue number 26 of McSweeney's is split up into three different books - two 4 X 6 paperback collections of short stories and one 8 X 6 hardcover fictionalized dossier based on Wesley Clark's famous "seven countries in five years" quote. Clark has never named the seven countries so it was up to Stephen Elliot and company to do the research and imagine jus ...more
MJ Nicholls
This issue suffers from a bland uniformity of style, and the presentation of "home/abroad" wartime flipbooks is a bit of a flop. The whole outfit looks somewhat cheap and is less luxurious to read than other McSweeney's issues.

My original review of this issue was insanely furious, but since then I've tapped into my inner Zen and swallowed a kegload of humble pie. Thank you, Dalai the Baker.

If you think, however, as a parting portent, I'm reading John Brandon's tedious Arkansas, you've got anoth
Sam Quixote
McSweeney's 26 comes in 3 books - two paperbacks (if you cut a normal book in two horizontally that's the size of the paperbacks) and a hardback. The hardback is the least interesting here as it's called "Where to Invade Next" and is a non-fiction look at countries in the Middle East and North Korea and profiles the despots and regimes, giving statistics of how brutal life in their societies is and haunting statistics like how many die from starvation, etc.

The way the paperbacks are designed is
What I like best about McSweeney's is that it is often experimental in that it asks us to reconsider what should and should not be considered "fiction." Most volumes are comprised of a handful of short stories by mostly lesser-known authors, but every now and then there's a curveball. Issue 26 is divided into three parts: one miniature book of stories that take place in the United States, a second tiny book of stories that take place abroad, and, finally, a hard-bound James Bond-looking "dossier ...more
I wouldn't recommend this issue as strongly as the last two. Good nonetheless. Two highlights: A gruesome and beautiful excerpt from John Brandon's novel ARKANSAS (also published by McSweeney's) which I had no plans to read until now. And the short story "How Jesus Comes" by Michael Gills, which begins, "Oh God, if there's a Jesus, let him come like the class-five honeybabe that fell on us that spring day, 1976, when Coach had us sprinting 220s around the cinder tracks, when Aerosmith's 'Walk Th ...more
May 29, 2008 David added it
i was listening to the black angels with their acoustic guitar after minutes of silence on the last track. it comes right out at you. the lyrics. "he's fighting in iraq. he's fighting in the iraq war. what for. well it was the next day. his mother got a telegram. it was addressed from iraq. oh oh."

and these books. just the books themselves. perfect facsimilies of the war editions from world war II. millions of copies were sent to soldiers overseas. and these. these remind you of that war. of th
This issue was one of my favorites in a while. There are several very good stories (I particularly liked the two-parters by Ismet Prcic and Uzodinma Iweala, as well as stories by Stephen Smith and Garry Craig Powell). And the accompanying book called "Where to Invade Next" is suitably creepy. It plays it completely straight as it argues for American military intervention in seven new countries, and (a) revealed how troubled/potentially dangerous many places are and (b) almost fooled me into thin ...more
Laissez Farrell
I've always said if there is one excellent story in a McSweeney's collection, then it's worth reading. Issue 26, like issue 25, gave me two excellent stories and two promising novel-excerpts. This one took me awhile to get through, probably because it comes in three volumes. I feel the need to read other materials in between each. The highlights were "Porcus Omnivorus" by Ismet Prcic, Amanda Davis's "Sleep" (Davis is someone whose writing I definitely need to check out), and excerpts from two lo ...more
Perez Malone
The three part issues always let me down a little. The Where to invade next thing is interesting but not very much fun to read. Also, too many of the stories are excerpts from larger books. I was also a bit annoyed by the two stories that were cut in half. I picked up the second book first and got very confused very quickly. Though to be fair, both of those stories kinda worked without their first halves.
Some good stories but I wish there had been more.
The three part issues always let me down a little. The Where to invade next thing is interesting but not very much fun to read. Also, too many of the stories are excerpts from larger books. I was also a bit annoyed by the two stories that were cut in half. I picked up the second book first and got very confused very quickly. Though to be fair, both of those stories kinda worked without their first halves.
Some good stories but I wish there had been more.
Ok, there were a couple stories I liked here, and I really dug the excerpt from 'Arkansas' ...but what does it say about a collection of stories when my favorite of the lot is basically an advertisement to get me to buy a novel? And yes, the third part was clever and all that, but I'd be a liar if I told you I read the whole thing. Clever is great, but not at the expense of a few hours of my reading time.
Yes, I'm being difficult and ornery.
Stephen Theaker
Where to Invade Next would be boring if the things it describes weren't so terrible. If it is meant as satire, or, as it says in the McSweeney's store, as a comment on the way propaganda can be used to justify warfare, it's not very effective, because it's all too convincing. Then again, maybe that shows just how effective it is.

The two books of short stories were superb. My favourite story was Pentimento, by Uzodinma Iweala.
The book I'm turning to before going to sleep at night is actually this...I started off with the tales from overseas and am now on the tales from home (which, to me, is actually overseas!). I've read 4 or more stories thus far and as always, they are enjoyable, yet thought-provoking and stay with you. Perfect for in-bed reading as they're short.
I would recommend the book "Arkansas" by John Brandon, rather then buying this quarterly. There is a short excerpt from Arkansas, and you will want to buy the book anyways. The rest of this one is not as memorable.

However, I am a subscriber to McSweeney's Quarterly, and I think it is a good deal for 55 bucks a year.
I dislike it when McSweeneys includes witty things that aren't short stories. This month's had an informational book "Where to Invade Next" (Part 3 of the 3 part issue- 1st is Stories from Overseas, 2nd is Stories from Our Shores). I appreciate it, but won't be reading it any time soon.
The Stories from overseas are a bleak look at things we're missing and experiences we hope to never have, while the stories from our shores are those moments that we scoot back into the sofa an wait for.
The 2 dorky small-format books seem much more interesting when you learn that they're modeled after this quondam literature series published to be especially easy for soldiers at war to carry around with them.
Tom Kilobees
Two little collections of often-deeply affecting short fiction and the quasi-official (but still readable) nightmare scenario handbook 'Where To Invade Next' make up a solid offering from McSweeney's
David S.
Not my favorite issue. That is, there were more stories that I either disliked or had a 'meh' reaction to.
oh well, my story is in it -- of course I love it!
Uzodinma Iweala story was good.
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Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly ...more
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