If McSweeney’s didn’t save my life, they at least denied me the occasion of a few years’ worth of suicidal ideation. They published my second novel after something like 17 other publishers had turned it down. And where other editors took six months to get through the manuscript (sending friendly updates like “This sure is a chore!”), Dave and Eli read it over a single weekend. When Eli called to say they wanted to bring it out, I quietly removed my hand from the garbage disposal and didn’t put it back in until sometime last year.
This is all to help me say that what I think is so special about McSweeney’s is not that they believed in my book when nobody else would. Other publishers believed in the book, but McSweeney’s was the only one that believed in their readers. While other publishers wielded criteria of difficulty, ponderousness, creepiness, length, and sad-making on behalf of the hypothetical readers who would never buy this book, McSweeney’s assumed only that, if we could make it good enough together, that would be sufficient. It wasn’t too long, too weird, too scary, too depressing, too challenging, or too unlike anything in somebody else’s catalog just then. It just wasn’t good enough yet; it wasn’t yet worth the effort it was going to demand of the reader, but that could be fixed. That marvelous assumption about who’s out there was as beautiful and wonderful an ethos as any I had yet or have since encountered, and it totally changed how I think about what I’m permitted, as a writer, to do, and it changed how I think about the people for whom I am doing the work.