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January 30, 2007


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I don't know about you, but I'm split on Dave Eggers. On the one hand, I can't read more than a few paragraphs of his writing without feeling overwhelmed by dismay and annoyance. Must it be so twee? On the other hand, his go-get-'em, hands-on, pluralistic, and inventive attitude towards publishing delights me; it strikes me as just what writers and readers need. Joe Hagen writes an appreciation of Eggers and his McSweeney's outfit from a biz point of view. I've recently been enjoying a snoop around the website of Wholphin, McSweeney's magazine / DVD of short movies.



posted by Michael at January 30, 2007


In his breakout book, Eggers opens by admitting that the real story is the first few chapters and the rest is so much 20-something navel-gazing: an honest and accurate assessment. The core chapters about his parents' deaths were heartfelt. The rest was literary nachos and beer - not all that nourishing, but hey, I like nachos and beer sometimes.

He proved his bona fides with the first chapters and has since been primarily concerned with being a hipster. I respond to the rest of his writing much like you do.

The first book (I *will not* look up its stupid title!) had an upside-down section at the back. While staring into it on a city bus, I was startled by a couple of 10 year olds laughing at me across the aisle - a publisher's joke on me that I found charming.

Wholphin looks interesting, and hats off to anybody who can liven up the publishing industry.

Posted by: robert on January 31, 2007 3:15 AM

Eggers' writing is very affected and if I wasn't smack in the middle of his target demographic, I'd probably hate it too. I don't think it will age well. But I agree that he has done more for writing and literacy than any other writer of the past 10 years.

Posted by: the patriarch on January 31, 2007 10:25 AM

I view the Eggers/McSweeney's scene as a sort of literary pyramid scheme. It's organized around a central, charismatic salesman (Eggers) whose success is trumpeted as plan that the program "works." It's not just selling a product, but it's selling a lifestyle-vision: "you can do this, you can be successful, too, you can have all of this is you just do the program." It's organized around a lot of flashy gimmicks and trinkets designed to catch the buyer's eye -- books with ribbons bound into them, books that all have unique covers drawn by the writer, books that open in odd ways, etc. Notice that there are not any works of actual literary quality being published by McSweeney's Books (with the exception, possibly, of Eggers, but I personally can't stand his work). It's all this cutesy stuff, like the book about the man who fell in love with a lemon. How in the hell can anyone read crap like that? I don't think people ARE reading that crap -- instead, they are buying a dream of DIY literary success.

Read Ada Calhoun's piece, talking about how the charm and attraction of the McSweeney's set wore thin quite quicky.

Posted by: James on January 31, 2007 8:51 PM

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