Superb writing, unique content makes McSweeney’s a literary gem

Oct 1, 2009
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McSweeney’s brings new meaning to its status as a small independent publishing house. Formatted to fit your iPhone, this literary journal is far easier to navigate than its namesake Web site, and so easy to read that it makes lugging around a Kindle akin to toting a Gutenberg Bible. It also delivers some of the […]

McSweeney’s brings new meaning to its status as a small independent publishing house.

Formatted to fit your iPhone, this literary journal is far easier to navigate than its namesake Web site, and so easy to read that it makes lugging around a Kindle akin to toting a Gutenberg Bible. It also delivers some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time.

When not working on a prototype for future newspapers or a pentagonal building-book (coming next spring), this San Francisco-based publisher puts out magazines like the Quarterly (short fiction) and Wholphin (a quarterly DVD magazine that has featured films by Spike Jonze and Steven Soderbergh).

Also available for iPod touch, the app itself provides daily humor from McSweeneys.net’s “Internet Tendency,” which recently received the national Webby Award for Best Writing and is alone worth the $5.99 for a chuckle on the train.

But that’s not even the main attraction. “Small Chair” iPhone-only selection of McSweeney content that is updated weekly and features unseen short stories, essays, interviews and films at your fingertips, requiring no Internet connection once downloaded. (This week’s selection: “Raw Water,” a 133-page story by author Wells Tower).

Because this material is not available online, the app transcends mere digital convenience and marketing strategies to pull readers to the print product. It certainly does that, too, but first stands tall as its own handheld primary source for good writing on the go.

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That is to say, it won’t disappoint and its designers know it. In fact, they’re so confident you’ll want more that your initial purchase will only get you a six-month subscription, forcing a renewal fee of an additional $4.99 once you’re too hooked to think twice.

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Steven Yaccino

Steven Yaccino has written for Esquire and U.S.News & World Report, among other magazines. He is currently freelancing in Chicago.

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