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How We Assembled Indiespensable #44

In his introduction to The Best of McSweeney's, Dave Eggers recounts the time he met an Irish couple with the surname of, coincidentally enough, McSweeney. Even more coincidentally, the man's name was Timothy, but the heart of the story is about his wife. Describing a writer she loved, Maura McSweeney told Eggers that he wrote "like he's seeing the world for the first time."

According to Eggers, that's what he looks for as an editor: "writers who make us feel like they're seeing their world, whatever world that is, with fresh eyes, and allow us to experience it through their words." Over the past 15 years, the journal he founded, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, has published such authors in droves.

But, for many, it's the magazine itself that takes center stage. Rick Moody recalls receiving a galley of the first issue:

I saw, was astonished to see, was arrested to see, how beautiful the thing was, how idiosyncratically and thoughtfully the thing was designed. I mean, my idea of a literary magazine was that it was primarily a sleep-inducer....Nevertheless, this magazine turned out to be beautiful, and its editor, uh, rather savvy, or even, let’s say, visionary....In due course, I received issue number one. Which as we know now changed the literary magazine for good, if not American publishing entire."

Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern took about two issues to become the hottest thing around. Known for its maverick spirit, its playfulness, its eye for talent, and its innovative experiments in style and form — one early issue had an entire David Foster Wallace story written on the spine — McSweeney's has become, as the New York Times put it, "a key barometer of the literary climate." Since its debut issue in 1998, the journal has published some of the most important, interesting, and just plain fun literary voices around. Now, the editors have collected their favorites in a single volume. We're immensely proud to feature The Best of McSweeney's, signed by a selection of McSweeney's writers, in Indiespensable Volume 44.

We realized it would be difficult to find an item special enough to accompany The Best of McSweeney's. But when we tasted the Blackberry + Tangerine Gumdrops made by local candy maker QUIN, we knew we'd hit on something. QUIN describes their own candies as "reimagined, updated, modernized," but to us, it was like tasting a gumdrop for the first time.

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A collective of high muckamucks, the Panjandrums largely spend their time in competitive Bananagram duels and negotiations regarding Pie Friday — not to mention painstakingly designing each installment of Powell's subscription club, Indiespensable, with the help of independent publishers and local merchants. From time to time, they find it entertaining to give you a look at the hows and whys behind the what. But, if you're yearning for more, send questions, suggestions, and random anecdotes to indiespensable@powells.com. (They especially like stories about pets, babies, and pie fillings.)

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Best of McSweeney's Used Hardcover $21.00

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