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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

McSweeney's #19

Book #26 of my reading list this year was McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #19.

The best part about McSweeney's #19 is the wonderful packaging. The 143 pg. softback issue comes in a beautifully decorated cigar box filled with a variety of WWII style propaganda/paraphernalia. It's unclear to me how much of the material is newly written and how much if it is reprints of real documents. Several of the items seem to fall in the latter camp, but then again they may just be real well done. Anyways, I'm not sure if each box is the same, but included in mine were:
  • a 64 pg booklet titled 'A Pocket Guide to the Middle East'
  • a handy card with Air Raid Instructions
  • a flier enlisting young men of seventeen to consider joining the Marines
  • an underground Communist flier titled 'The Big Plot'
  • military orders for a 'Rainbow Mission'
  • a short Marine pamphlet titled 'The Stuff That Wins'
  • a leaflet from the Civil Defence titled 'Some Things You Should Know If War Should Come'
  • a 1961 DoD pamphlet titled 'Fallout Protections - What to Know and Do About Nuclear Attack'
  • a CIA memo from Donald Rumsfield titled 'The Impact of Leaking Classified Information'
  • a pamphlet titled 'Your Horoscope Tells You How You Can Help the Republican Party Win'
  • a pamphlet on War Pensions
  • several letters from a Nelson Squires to his brother Fred
  • a black and white Halloween photo of some kids in what appears to be a Communist classroom of some sort
  • a black and white photo of several kids on kots in the woods

Sadly, the actual literary journal in this issue isn't nearly as interesting as the packaging. T.C. Boyle's so-so novella "Wild Child" makes up the majority of the issue. "Wild Child" is the story of a young boy who is abandoned in the woods and grows up as a wild animal. Upon discovery he's brought into society and 'domesticated'. It's a story that's been oft-told, and Boyle's take on it isn't much different. Oddly Boyle attributes the story to Dana Halter, a character from his new novel saying that Dana's "interest in identity and language informs 'Wild Child' with a dimension that I alone would be incapable of achieving." Weird.

Aside from Boyle's work the remainder of the issue is primarily made up of short stories centered around three paintings which line the inside front and back covers. All in all pretty ho-hum.

On a side note, I was disappointed to find that the journal I received was incorrectly bound. Following the table of contents the copy I received starts with page 22 and 23, jumps back to pages 4 and 5, bounces forward to 18 and 19, etc., etc. Around page 20 things get back to normal so I was able to read from the second story on to the end of the book with no problem. Not sure if I was just unlucky or if this was a common problem that affected a wide run of issue #19.

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