(McSweeney's, 181 pages) - Reviewed by Robert Birnbaum
In 1998, Dave Eggers, having published about 30 issues of the now legendary Might magazine, spent some time at stodgy (meaning no longer vital) Esquire magazine and having published his bestselling, earth-shattering memoir, HeartBreaking Work etc. launched his assault on literary convention with McSweeney's, both as a hard-copy quarterly and as a website.
At that time, for obvious reasons, McSweeney's offered readers a lifetime subscription for $100, including two McSweeney's T-shirts and (in true McSweeney's fashion) a xeroxed letter of appreciation. No fool I, I bought into it, and that turned out to be the only shrewd investment in my life. Clearly, someone crunched the numbers and finally figured out that this was a dollar drain, and thus recently McSweeney's offered a reasonable buyout, which included a signed copy of Eggers' latest opus, What is the What. All of which is a long-winded way of pointing out the slim prospects for success and the frailty of existence for so-called literary journals.
After the first few editions, the magazine continuously experimented with a variety of formats and designs--kind of a literary Visionaire--and this latest issue is a relatively straightforward cloth binding, with a dust jacket that is also a poster and has dozens of very short stories by Dave Eggers printed on the inner side and wait, there's more--a special trial-sized introductory edition of Comedy by The Numbers by Professor Eric Hoffman and Dr. Gary Rudoren.
And by the way, Number 23 contains ten stories with an usual blend of known and well published authors--Ann Beattie, Chris Bachelder, Roddy Doyle and not-so-well-known names such as Wells Tower, Shawn Vestal, Deb Olin Unferth, Christopher Stokes, April Wilder, Clancy Martin and Caren Beilin.