(These both came this week, and both express displeasure.)

- - -

Dear Mr. Jackass (sir),

I received my subscription copy of the newest Mcsweeney’s. As usual I anxiously opened the white envelope to get a glimpse at what I’ve been stupidly waiting for for months and months. You’d think I didn’t know how to use a bookstore.

What the hell? The spine was (and I might add, still is) ripped. Not a marring of unreconcilable stature, but enough to look “worn” next to my other copies of McSwys on the shelf. I love books and despite your stupidity in printing the damn things in Iceland (which I approve of (stupidity, not Iceland)), they are beautiful. I read my books in the safety of home and with clean hands and I never lend them, ever, even to friends (I have none).

I’m pissed that my copy of 1999’s 1st McSweeney’s was for all intents and purposes (mine), ruined. Since my mail carrier works for the government I find no better recourse than to blame you, sir, for the piteous condition in which IT arrived. What up with the Charmin envelopes, yo? You spend the first 3 pages of this issue bragging about how much care goes into the printing and filling of subscriptions, boo hoo, etc., then you put these valuable tomes into shit-assed “white 9×12 envelopes.”

You make me sick. Here I was, reading along happily, a grin on my face for the first time in weeks, and thinking how quaint for this big-city-joe to personally inscribe each subscription (except mine. You must have run out of cute things to say, as you simply make fun of my name). Now I know you’re just another big-city-shyster who probably had several thousand of these things damaged on the S.S. Nosblo from Iceland and decided to pass them off on those whose money you already have (and most likely spent on food or something).

Please to be sending me a fresh copy or I will be forced to continue to be angry, you jackass.

I love your publication.

My favorite word is monkey.

Geoff Bowie

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

The other day I was hoping to happen upon your popular virtual home when, in place of the correct address, “mcsweeneys.net,” I inadvertently typed into my browser the more hackneyed “mcsweeneys.com.” There I discovered the internet’s oldest and most respected source of information about the McSweeney family of Waltham, Massachusetts.

It’s a handsome site with lots of previously unknown information about McSweeney patriarch Gerry, daughter Rebecca and some of the lesser known McSweeneys as well. Having achieved a level of intimacy with the family from reading their online biographies (“Hi, my name is Trevor. I am seven. I have lots of friends. I like to build forts. . .”), I proceeded to the link labeled “Family and Friends Click Here,” but was unexpectedly foiled by the following prompt: “Our current schedule is available to family and close friends only. To prove your identity answer this riddle: What was the name of our big black dog?”

I spent the next five and a half hours attempting every dog-name password I could think of — Dusty, Blackie, Bandit, Shep — but each of my efforts was thwarted by this unscalable firewall. With my frustration reaching intolerable levels, and “The Profiler” on in 10 minutes, I finally gave up.

It seems to me that the McSweeney’s would like to have it both ways. While they crave the fast-paced lifestyle of internet stardom, they also expect to protect their “privacy.” But what about my rights as a consumer who relies on the internet as his primary source of news, entertainment, and sexual gratification?

Recently, on cable television, I tuned in to the words of some low-ranking celebrity, like the New York Times puzzle editor, or the actor who wore the wookie suit in Star Wars. This person suggested that information would be to the next century as oil has been to this one: Whoever controls the information, the celebrity said, will have the power. I don’t know how the celebrity knows this, but it strikes me as being true.

And that brings me to my point: Do we really want power in the 21st Century handed to a few New England elitists who know the name of Gerry McSweeney’s dead dog? What’s to stop “SportsZone” from withholding the Blackhawks-Red Wings score until we describe the interior of Gerry McSweeney’s Astrovan? I can foresee a day when we won’t even be able to watch Pamela Anderson give her ex-husband a hummer without first guessing at Gerry McSweeney’s preferred brand of scotch.

McSweeneyism has put us netizens at a crossroads. More like a fork in the road, actually. It’s foggy and raining and we’re going too fast, and the fact that we’re trying to eat Arby’s and find the new Cake CD under the passenger seat isn’t making things any easier. One day we’re going to go skidding across this black ice of secrets, causing a bootlegger spin into the guardrail of civility, followed by a flaming rollover onto the frontage road of common sense. Then we’ll see what a mess these privacy nuts have made of Al Gore’s marvelous invention.

Topper Shanks

Chicago, IL