Notes from the McSweeney’s Representative
Hi. This will be a new semi-weekly kind of column thing I’m hoping to write. I will do my best to maintain some sort of schedule. Thank you for your indulgence.
QUICK SEPTEMBER UPDATES
We’d like to very warmly thank all those who have come to David Byrne’s events in the last month or so. The San Francisco one we’ve talked about. The L.A. event, at the incredible Track 16, was well-described here. The Austin event, held at McSweeney’s favorite BookPeople, was densely packed and featured Byrne on his own, reading and signing until roughly midnight. Details about the Oxford, Mississippi event are available on the Square Books website.
There will be at least one East Coast event. The first will take place September 24 at the Angel Orensanz Center, a former synagogue on Norfolk Street in New York City. The event will celebrate both Byrne’s The New Sins and the imminent release of Lydia Davis’s Samuel Johnson Is Indignant.
At this reading, there will be some food and a no-host bar, and copies of both Byrne’s book and a few advance copies of Davis’s. Byrne will present his Powerpoint-assisted version of The New Sins, and Lydia will read from her new collection. There will be other entertainment features as well.
We’ll have more information here as we solidify details. Tickets are now available at our store in Brooklyn, and will very soon be available at a few other area bookstores. They’re $12.
LYDIA DAVIS’S SAMUEL JOHNSON IS INDIGNANT
Lydia’s book is now at press and we’re very excited about its impending release. I have to say that in getting the book ready, I had to read the collection probably six or seven times, and with each read the stories became tighter, funnier, the language evermore precise and unassailable. This is why so many writers — short story writers, novelists, poets — look to Lydia for inspiration.
There were, actually, times during the galley stage when Lydia would pencil a word change into the margins, and frankly, seeing a substitution on her galley was shocking. Her prose is the sort that doesn’t invite suggestion or improvement.
In a few weeks, we’ll have a Lydia Davis Week on the site, and we’re inviting all readers to offer their thoughts on her work, here. We’ll post these comments, along with those from other authors, and excerpts from Samuel Johnson Is Indignant.
BEN GREENMAN’S SUPERBAD
Superbad is almost at press itself, and will be ready for a November release. Fans of Greenman will not be disappointed, but they’ll probably be surprised to see that only about half of the collection is of the humor variety. Greenman is best known for his lighter work on this site and in The New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs page, but in Superbad those pieces are buttressed by some very accomplished short stories that vary in style and tone from Chekhovian to Barthelmian, if that’s even a word. Protagonists range from the elderly Russian researcher of “Snapshot,” who struggles to reconcile with his two grown sons and win the love of an American academic he knows only through his correspondence, to the plainspoken, puckish Italian conceptualist of “Getting Nearer to Nearism.”
We’ve been trying to think of another book like Greenman’s, recently or ever, and we have been stumped.
STEPHEN DIXON’S I.
We are thrilled to announce that sometime in the mid-to-late winter, McSwys will publish I., a new novel by two-time National Book Award finalist Stephen Dixon. More details about the novel and our schedule for its release will be forthcoming.
Is late. We thought it would be out in September, but now it looks like October. We’re almost done. Apologies for the delay. It’s a very good issue.
THE COLLINS LIBRARY
We’ve just come up with an arrangement with Paul Collins, longtime McSwys contributor and author of the recently published and much-acclaimed Banvard’s Folly, to publish a series of books that spring from or were the source of inspiration for many of his articles about long-forgotten eccentrics. These books, produced in cloth-bound hardcover editions, will be published in very limited numbers — probably each in the 1,000-copy range. The first two titles will appear in the spring. They are:
English as She Is Spoke. In 1855, José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino sat down to write an English phrasebook for Portuguese students. There was just one problem: they didn’t know English. Even worse, they didn’t own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary and a French-to-English dictionary. The bizarre linguistic train wreck that ensued became a classic of unintentional humor, and went on to dozens of printings around the world for the rest of the 19th century. Armed with Fonseca and Carolino’s guide, a Portuguese traveler could complain about his writing implements (“This pen are good for notting”), insult a barber (“What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger”), complain about the orchestra (“It is a noise which to cleave the head”), go hunting (“Let aim it! let make fire him!”), and consult a handy selection of truly mystifying Idiotisms and Proverbs (“Nothing some money nothing of Swiss.”) Mark Twain, prefacing the American edition, marveled of its “miraculous stupidities” that “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.” Selected from the original 1855 Paris printing of Fonseca and Carolino’s hapless masterpiece, with an introduction by Paul Collins, this is the first newly edited and typeset edition in over a century.
“Memoirs of ****.” When George Psalmanazar first arrived in England in 1704, he was the toast of London society — the first man to ever reach the west from the mysterious island of Formosa (Taiwan). Psalmanazar ate only raw meat and dirty roots, lived by a religion that no one had ever seen before, and tantalized Londoners with his exotic language and accounts of Formosan culture. He went on to author a history of Formosa that was eagerly reprinted across Europe, and was sent to Oxford to teach the Formosan language. But Psalmanazar wasn’t his real name, and he wasn’t a real Formosan; he’d invented an entire country and culture, right down to its language and religion and calender, and he was to live in this imaginary world for much of the rest of his life. His true identity and origin has never been discovered. After Psalmanazar’s death in 1764, his maid found a manuscript locked in a desk: it was his full confession. Fallen into obscurity and out of print since 1765, this newly edited and typeset edition of Memoirs of **** revives one of the most audacious impostures in history.
More information about pre-ordering these books will be on the site sometime in the late fall. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen Banvard’s Folly, we urge you to find it, read it, and worship Paul as a god. Another recent release, Ricky Jay’s gorgeous Journal of Anomalies, nicely complements Collins’s book. Both books read like the wildest sort of fiction, and yet all the stories within are completely true, scrupulously researched.
ARTHUR BRADFORD’S DOGWALKER
As many of you already know, frequent McSwys contributor Arthur Bradford has just published his first collection of stories, called Dogwalker. About five of the stories therein first appeared in our journal, while among the remaining items is one O. Henry award winner and one story about a mattress. This is a great collection.
Arthur is on tour, too. His dates are listed here. If you have never seen Arthur read, please go. There’s no one who gives a more entertaining reading. Just don’t sit in the first few rows.
BOOK & JOURNAL SUBMISSIONS
We are as always hugely grateful for the volume of submissions we receive for our journal and our book publishing arm. Our only, great, regret is how slow we are in reading them — we’re sometimes up to six months behind. Because our staff is very small, and we like to have all submissions read by people who have been with us for a while, it severely slows down our turnaround time.
This goes many times over for those of you who’ve sent books to us for consideration. These are read by only two people, each of whom works part-part-part time, and so the process is very very slow. We apologize for this situation, but we honestly can’t think of a remedy. We could hire more people, but that would begin to adversely affect our goals — to keep our operation small enough that our authors can reap the benefits of their labors while remaining intimately involved in every step of the publishing of their books.
But thank you again for sending us your work. It means a great deal to us that you’re willing to let us look at it.
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