From: Dana Schmalenberg
Subject: My Experience While Buying the Print Version of McSweeneys

I’ve been wanting to pick up an issue of McSweeneys in print, so looked on the website to find out where I could pick one up here in Los Angeles. There’s only about 5 or 8 places and lo and behold, one of them is CoOppourtunity, my grocery store.

It’s not your run of the mill grocery store, it’s in the very tony Santa Monica, California and offers all kinds of health food specialties, organic vegetables, natural herbs, vitamins, potions and lotions. There’s also usually some massage therapist there, with one of those ergonomic chairs or tables, wearing socks with sandals, smelling of patchouli and working over some person who obviously has no objection to being kneaded, squeezed and poked like bread dough in the public thoroughfare of a grocerystore aisle.

A few weeks ago I canceled my membership to the Co-Op because this last year it has been so damned crowded that there was just no getting in and out of there in a timely fashion. The shopping experience became a yuppie/hippie bumpercar ride with forced smiles and excuse me’s. However, I knew I still had a week or two left on my membership card and so I looked at it… the expiration date was today, July 13. Perfect. God forbid I didn’t get that 5% membership discount. I actually found a parking spot in front, again, a sign from God. I went inside to the customer service desk where they were holding my copy. (I had called ahead, just to make sure they did indeed have a copy. I do things like that now that I’m an adult.) I also picked up some Tamari sauce, green onions, soy yogurt, regular onions, cherries, bananas, and 2 white peaches. I took my place in line and looked around. It was 3 p.m. on a Thursday and the Co-Op was uncharacteristically slow. I’m self employed and have the luxury of making my own schedule, so I try to do my shopping when you would think the stores would be slow, say, the middle of the day during the middle of the week. Not so in Los Angeles. Why? Because nobody has regular 9 to 5 jobs in this town. It’s true. At least in the Venice/Santa Monica area where I live. Everyone is either “in the industry” which here is entertainment… Or they’re actors, (which means they’re in the restaurant business, and they work at night.) or they are housewives or trustfund kids or just plain rich and don’t have to work. Hell, I don’t know. All I know is that they are always in my way. But not today; Cinderella parking spot, free and clear aisles, short lines at the register, it’s great. The cashier scans my food. He’s a nice, young Latino guy, I’ve seen him there before and he always lets me know he remembers me. He holds up the boxed Issue 4 of McSweeneys, he had tried to scan it but nothing came up.

(An aside here, I wanted to take a second to tout the fact that the scan method, that little bar code on everything, was invented in my hometown of Troy, Ohio)

Back to the story.

“Where’d you get this?” asks the cashier.

“Uh, customer service was holding it for me.”

That didn’t seem to answer his question. He looked around for help.

I offered, “The magazine section. It’s a magazine.”

“It don’t look like one.”

“The book section?”

“Oh. All right then. How much is it?”

I tell him I don’t know, but a yearly subscription is 40 bucks, and it was a quarterly, so let’s do the math, 10 bucks?

He smiles, (I think he has a little crush on me) “I’ll give it to ya for $9.99.”

“Works for me!” I smiled back.

A voiced from behind me pipes up, “No, that’s a special edition, I’m sure it’s more than that.”

I turn around and see an attractive small framed woman. Late 30’s, straight, dark honey-colored hair.

“My husband gets that magazine. It’s printed in Finland.”

“Iceland.” I correct, not looking at her.

What are the fucking odds that someone would actually know McSweeneys, much less the cost of the “special edition”?! This kind of crap is always happening to me. The cashier gives the book to the bag boy and instructs him to go find out how much it costs. Shit, now I’m holding up the line.

“My husband’s been following that guy’s career.”

“What guy?” knowing full well she’s talking about Mr. Eggers.

She looks at me funny. I think she knows that I know who she’s talking about but am just being difficult because she opened her mouth about the price. I suddenly felt very mean. So I continue, but still wouldn’t use Dave’s name.

“Oh, yea, him. Did your husband ever get Might? It was a magazine they used to do outta San Francisco.” Now I felt stupid, like I was trying to one-up her husband, a man who wasn’t even there. I looked away, “I had some friends of friends… who knew them.” Trying to play off that it wasn’t because I’m some smarty pants snob or anything, I just stumbled upon it because of some friends.

The manager shows up and tells the cashier it costs $22.00. I’m embarrassed. Here the cashier with the crush on me had almost given it to me for 10 bucks, no 9.99! The woman behind me looks at me like, “See?”

I stammer. “I’m, I’m sorry. I just figured because the subscription is 40 bucks and it’s a quarterly, you know, divide by four…” I look back at the five people in line behind me. Five minutes ago I was reveling in the fact that this place wasn’t as packed as it usually is, that you could actually get your cart down an aisle, that it wasn’t jammed with yuppie/hippies reeking of patchouli. Suddenly it very much was. The yuppie/hippies weren’t happy with some girl who was trying to pull a fast one on their beloved Co-Op. It wasn’t very Co-Oppy of me. Wasn’t very “all for one”, wasn’t very socialist or whatever it was that everyone was trying to prove by paying 25 bucks a year to be “part owner” in what is normally a very crowded, expensive, organic grocery store.

“Do you still want it?” the cashier asks He wasn’t flirting with me anymore. He’s certainly lost respect for this girl who tried to trick him.

“Yes, of course. Gosh, I would have felt so bad underpaying. It’s a great magazine. I want to support it, you know?” I said to no one in particular, but everyone who was listening.

The woman behind me says with a little snort, “Oh, don’t worry about him, I think he’s doing all right.” Again, referring to Dave Eggers, whose name she obviously doesn’t know and whose name I’m not going to give her.

Rather than launch into a conversation about how he’s not doing as well as she probably thinks he is and explain to her that the huge sum of money she thinks he’s making is taxed and cut this way and that by publishers, managers, agents and whoever… for some reason, which I can not explain. (Pure meanness?) I decide to add fuel to the fire.

“Yea, I just heard he sold the movie rights for 1.4 million dollars.” With that, I hand the cashier my band card again, and my previous receipt so he could charge me the difference.

“1.4 million?” she repeats, with emphasis on the “mil”.

I raise my eyebrows and nod.

She snorts again, like she’s a bit disgusted by the sum.

What had I done? I put my hands in my pockets. Is it PMS? The bag boy still hasn’t shown up with the box o’ magazine. The cashier looks around. He picks up the phone and pages him.

“Lorenzo to the front. Lorenzo.”

Lorenzo was nowhere to be seen. Where the hell did he go? To call the police? Were they going to have me arrested on charges that I tried to pull some sort of price switching scam? I feel bad about this whole experience. I also feel like I have somehow betrayed Dave Eggers, I could have defended him, explained things to her. I look at the cashier and back at the line behind me.

“Should I just step aside and wait? I mean –”

The cashier shrugs and shakes his head no at the same time. What does this mean? What happened to Lorenzo?

Time is passing so slowly. I rationalize my guilt over Dave by telling myself that he doesn’t give a shit if I defend him or not. It’s not like he’s my personal buddy or anything… although after reading his book, I definitely hold him closer in my heart than some joe schmo on the street. And even though I cringe when people use their fame to get laid more, if Dave did indeed do that, as I have read in different reports, good for him. It’s like President Clinton. So he got a blowjob? I personally feel that if you have the stress of the free world upon your shoulders, then you should be woken up with a blowjob every morning, and that there should be a cabinet of especially talented, hot women to take turns doing just that. So good for Dave. He’s worked hard and has been through a lot and dammit, he deserves to get his groove on. One of the people I was holding up in line grunted and cleared his throat. I started to get a stomachache

Lorenzo? Hello? Buddy?

As I usually do when I’m nervous or uncomfortable, I run my mouth uncontrollably. I turn to the woman behind me.

“There’s a website for the magazine. You should tell your husband.”

She makes a pretend interested face. I open my mouth again.

“Yea, and on the website there’s a place where you can write in and tell your funny stories about buying or being in possession of the magazine.”

She was losing her patience.



Another yuppie/hippie stuck in line sighs heavily, loudly.

The woman behind me tilts her head and gives me that fake L.A. smile,

“Well now you have one.”

- - -

From: Jacob Kart
Subject: The true story of all 5 copies of Mcsweeney’s at Borders in Ann Arbor

So, five copies arrive at our bookstore. We are excited (at least, some of us are.) Brian is the periodicals clerk. He is not excited, but then Brian never gets excited about anything, or least if he ever does get excited about anything, he tries very hard not to show it, which almost amounts to the same thing in the end. In any case, Brian hand delivers three of the aforementioned five copies to me (my name is Jacob, and I am excited to recieve my copy of Mcsweeney’s, in fact I show it to everyone in the store, and more than 50% share my enthusiasm but usually in a way that somehow demeans my own glee), Andre (he works in the music store; Andre is excited but he can’t afford to buy his copy of Mcsweeney’s and therefore must hope that no evil manager removes it from the employee hold shelf before he scrapes up his hard earned cash), and Steve (Steve is excited; Steve also mentions that he very well might attempt to sell his copy of Mcsweeney’s on Ebay later that night-I check the next morning and one copy has already been bid to 36 dollars but it is being auctioned from New York, not Ann Arbor.) Copy number four is sold to a creepy looking man at the register I’m working on. I try to strike up a conversation, something along the lines of “Hey, that’s Mcsweeney’s that you’re buying there, isn’t it,” but the creepy customer, who has thick glasses and beady eyes, refuses to say a single word during the transaction. This makes me uncomfortable. Copy number five sells a few minutes later to a very nice young man whom I’ve talked to previously, he is a writer and a student and I hard sell that last issue right down his throat, he has no choice, he must buy it, and that’s it. No more Mcsweeney’s at Borders.

The box and its contents are all quite nice in my opinion.

Jacob Kart

- - -

From: “Keith Crouse”
Subject: Pulse-Pounding Tales of Buying McSweeney’s
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,


E, a distinguished bookstore person in a droll T-shirt

F, second distinguished bookstore person

K, too layered for this unseasonable weather and getting sweaty again

K: And I also have a McSweeney’s on hold.

E: Name?

K: Crouse, with a C.

E: (scanning) …I saw her put it here…

K: She might have spelled it with a K.

E: (finding, unalphabetized on top of counter) Ah.

E struggles to remove a paper tag, attached to the cellophane by several framing layers of scotch tape.

F: Why does she do that?

E: Don’t know.

E hesitantly applies more fingernail to the task.

K: RIP IT!!!

E unhesitantly rips, the deed is done.

E: Sorry, I don’t know, it might have been a gift for your Mom.


Moms love McSweeney’s.

Keith Crouse

- - -

From: benbrown
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000
Subject: a McSweeney’s Buying Experience


(a funny story about that, oh, but not really worth telling here, I suppose.)

Recently went into Austin’s own BookPeople to buy a copy of McSweeney’s 4, nice box (and I really want to make a cunnilingus joke, but won’t) and asked for the magazine section, which I really didn’t have to do because it was right in front of me and quite large. However! McSweeney’s is not kept in the magazine section of BookPeople, or at least, issue 4 was not. It was kept in a special and specially prominent place, above the check out counter on the highest shelf, back there with the Pokemon cards and (now useless) Y2K countdown clocks. (Important note: I don’t think they actually had Y2K countdown clocks, but I’ve seen them in that place in other stores, and I was just trying to set the scene.)

I didn’t, however, immediately see the issues of 4 because there were none. There was one on the information counter, and it was still beautiful and in it’s plastic wrap and it had a small postit note attached that read something like “Please be careful with this copy so that we may keep it beautiful.” This was obviously a copy meant to be saved for one (or all) of the store’s employees.

Someone named Bryan (who’s roommate, he told us, is organizing the emminent arrival of the Mr. Eggers at said BookPeople) (or maybe Brian) went looking for a box of 4 that was hiding in the back room, during which time, my friend Bryan (definately Bryan) and I talked in loud voices about how we were sad to no longer be living near New York where we could, on a whim, drive to strange second floor Chinese restaurants and attend strange second floor Chinese magazine parties. We thought, or I thought, but I’m pretty sure he thought too, that this would associate us in some greater way with the magazine and whatever perceived glory is attached to those who are associated with said magazine, and etc, etc, etc, I’m going on too long.

Finally, Brian returned with a box of the 4 and we bought 2 copies on 2 separate credit cards and were off, back to our respective houses.

Note 1: A friend of ours, who moved from Brooklyn to Austin to be with us frequently talks about his plans to write a funny letter about how he was “the neighbor they never knew” or something like that. Apparently, he lived just a few doors down from McSweeney’s HQ and always wanted to drop off his subscription money personally, but didn’t want to break any rules, but also couldn’t bring himself to send the check just a few doors down, and so, never actually subscribed. Point being, haha Lane, I told first.

Note 2: The individually bound McSweeney’s books do not smell as nice as the larger, thicker issues. However, the box itself smells quite nice.

Ben Brown

- - -

From: “Patrick Jordan”
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000
Subject: Namedropping with McSweeney’s

Dear McSweeney’s

Recently I was trying to secure a job at any of the local bookstores here in Denver, CO. I thought that people who go to bookstores are smart people, so pretty much I would be pointing the way to fiction or some other category. Fairly easy work. I remebered something from my resume class in college, or at the job seminar i snuck into at the local high school when i was between jobs last fall (I’m small for the age of 23 and with a cleanshaven face can pass for the age 16 easy), something about making a strong impression during the interview. What better way to impress the owners, or interviewers (whoever I would be talking to, most certainly the owners because of my outstanding resume, which was embellished slightly but only because truth is relative so therefore a lie as well), than to hint at my love of McSweeney’s. Ask a discreet question, “Say while I’m here do you happen to have the most recent copy of that oustanding journal Timothy McSweeney’s?”, or some such nonsense. A plan of such brilliance is doomed to fail. That is what i should have thought, however I did not. After each successive interview, full of grandiose lies and not a small amount chest-pounding, I would causually mention your illustrious journal. Each time i would be met with a blank stare or perhaps a puzzled look. Some stores, such as the local Barnes and Noble, would look on their database. They usually typed the honoured name of McSweeney as the author. Have no fear, I always loudly corrected their mistake and made it a point to tap the screen to emphasize the error. At first I was devastated. First, your name was of no help at all. I will not forget this, ever.

I’m sorry, this hurts to much to continue. I meant this letter to be a humorous little letter about an experience with your journal. It seems to have evolved, or perhaps was designed from the start by some omnipotent creator, into a crazy person’s tirade based on his obsession with a small little journal based out of Brooklyn. Your journal has indeed changed my life.

Patrick Jordan

P.S. This letter was written in a new experimental style where I, the writer, composed the first two sentences first and the filled in the rest randomly while at school. The original letter was of course:
Dear McSweeney’s,
Your jounal changed my life.

P.S.S. To be honest the letter was based on a true story where i did drop your name and much to my surprise it worked. The Tattered Cover bookstore here in Denver was happy to show me where the book was located and even directed me to a new novel by Dave Eggers. I assume he has something to do with this. Anyway this is my less than amusing and shoddily contruscted story. So.

- - -

Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1999
Subject: redemption
From: “Jeff Berman”


In spite of my experiences in Harvard Square earlier in the week, I decided to stop into Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, to see if they had ever heard of McSweeney’s.

Expecting derision, I walked up to the tallest person at the register and asked. The tall man with the mustache and receding hairline was Bernie, who owns the place.

Here’s where the redemption part comes in: Bernie not only had two copies of McSweeney’s, but was so excited about my request that he started paraphrasing an article from the current Harper’s Magazine, which, to re-paraphrase, says that in the near future, what with everything available instantly online, only the smarties (such as, nudge nudge, me and Bernie) would own books. This conversation ran on for almost half an hour, covering such topics as why it is that no 20-somethings will commit to managing a bookseller & cafe or selling T-shirts in New Jersey, to the new Massachusetts law which has forced Bernie to install a liquor bar so that he could retain the smoking section in his cafe.

(Incidentally, Bernie says that he had many more copies of McSweeney’s, which sold quickly (in the SPRING), and he’s eager to get a new issue. As a tangent to this incidental remark, I’m now reluctant to subscribe, having noticed that a yearly subscription lasts “four issues or one year, whichever comes first.”)

One more fascinating detail: Both of Bernie’s remaining copies of McSweeney’s had been pre-dog-eared, so I don’t have to go through the time-consuming process of breaking in the book by myself. The copy I bought even had some lettuce in there, marking Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s page (incidentally, page 103, not 102).

Now, the three questions: Are all of McSweeney’s readers this pathetic? Assuming you can figure out from the above clues which issue I have, is there a newer one? Will you pass along my regards to Zev Borrow?

Thank you,

Jeff Berman

- - -

Subject: trying to buy McSweeney’s on Oct. 31
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999

Store #1 (indie record / zine store)

Me: Do you have McSweeney’s?
Clerk: No

Store #2 (huge bookstore chain)

Me: Do you have McSweeney’s?
Clerk: Let me check……no, no we don’t

Store #3 (a different huge bookstore chain)

Me: Do you have McSweeney’s?
Clerk (dressed as Dracula): No

Day of the Dead Celebration at Mexican Culture Center:

Me: is this Tamarindo?
Person in booth: No

- - -

From: “A friend”
Subject: [experiences with mcsweeneys]
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999


My roommate studies nuclear strategy (and, he is careful to remind me, deterrence.). One book on his shelf is called “After Hegemony.” Another is called “The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War.” A third: “The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked.” He read McSweeney’s and said, “this makes me want to be creative,” and now he is playing guitar.

I got in an argument about taste with a literary friend of mine, who offered the snappy retort, “don’t make me out to be Robert Mitchum.” Who the hell is Robert Mitchum, I thought to myself, hung up the phone, and went back to my McSweeney’s. And there it was, on page 135: “Robert Mitchum, infamous for his curtness.”

Similarly, when another friend of mine returned my McSweeney’s, I asked him what he thought of it. “Glib and insouciant,” he replied. “Yes, it certainly isn’t very souciant,” I said, thinking on my feet. He grinned and pulled out a dictionary. “Insouciant,” he read, insouciantly, “calm and untroubled. Carefree.” I nodded, impressed, and took the mag back with me to the crapper. Nary did I poop: half way down page 123, “insouciantly glib.” Go figure.

- - -

Date: Fri, 08 Oct 1999
From: Jeff Ferzoco
Subject: Stowaways and claustrophobes

To whom it may concern at this fine publication’s e-mail answering center,

It seems that each copy of your journal which comes into my possession immediately leaves it. One is now cavorting about Los Angeles with a presumptuous (and promiscuous) roommate (issue #3), the other has been put into a large but somehow unidentifiable moving box at a relocating friend’s house (issue #2). Both have the promise of return in a short time.

This would not be of consequence except that I’d scarcely begun to read either of them (perhaps less true of #2.) At this moment I very much want them back, and am darn near carrying myself down to the local bookseller and reinvesting in #3.

Mostly I’d like you to know that your journal is well traveled; without hesitation it is willing to leap into the hands of any passer-by. Though I applaud the vigor with which it lives, I still pine for its copy.

Expect a lifetime subscription order soon. Wait anxiously if you’d like.

Jeff Paul Ferzoco

- - -

Do you know what I just saw? Saw with the same eyes that watch these icons of modern communication appear on white? Different of course from the eyes that read this mulch. But, of course you don’t know what I just saw, but I will tell you nonetheless.

I had just finished an intensely grueling but rewarding nonetheless meeting with an engineer co-worker of mine. My head was swimming with secretive methods of flow and organization. It was afternoon in the Bay Area and I started walking towards my favorite coffee shop in all the world.

While on the way I stopped in (At this point I think it is important to know that the neighborhood I work in is a mixture of printing facilities, city bus repair depots, paper manufacturing companies, trendy clothing manufacturing companies, splanky hip live / work lofts (one of which is the office I work in), warehouses, outdoor eateries, and the such) a warehouse turned “rustic furniture” retailer. As I walked in the open garage door, there were two people, a man and a woman, she had blonde hair, talking. I paid no attention to them as walked through the “rustic” furniture, it reminding me of a store a few friends of mine run in Oakland. I had composed a few questions that I wanted to ask the owner, but I could not discern which of the two people in the garage doorway was the owner, if one of them was indeed the owner. Their conversation was still going and neither of them pay the least breath of attention to me, a browsing, interested consumer, so I left, disappointed, vowing to never patronize the “rustic furniture” retailer again.

I continued my walk across the freeway enjoying the slightly overcast day and the view of downtown, thinking about how wonderful a steaming cup of coffee with half and half with a little bit of sugar would be. You see that’s how I drink my coffee.

I saw the black dog sitting outside about a block away from it. I almost stopped to pet it on my way in, but I noticed a guy with dark glasses and a scrubby beard talking to two other people and forgot. My black shoes were very clunky and loud as I ran up the steps into the coffee shop. And I was thinking about the nice coffee I was going to have in just a moment. Blissfully unaware of anyone in the shop and with great intention I was running up the steps to the bathroom on the second floor before placing my order. As I was doing this, Kip, the person who made a cappuccino for my co-worker pointed out something to me. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was he was trying to signal about, but my glance followed the arcing point of his finger to the magazine rack where I saw two white fat issues of McSqueekers #3. (Often times, because I am affectionate person and feel so affectionate towards McSplenkuers, I call it a different variation of a Mic or a Splenk or some thing totally unrelated.) Although I was intent on going up the stair to the bathroom, I had to stop to admire the new issue (of which I have issues with the M.R., because as a Pioneer I have yet to receive my crystal white crack gem of modern enlightenment.) I swooped down upon the rack and snapped it up. I started to make very merry and clever remarks about McSmookers, asking if they had read the story on the spine, etc.

Just the previous day I was writing on a post-it note to Kip that he needed to have his boss order the magazine for the rack, because McSpunklie was a very Farley’s (Farley’s is the name of the excellent, no Starbucks within view winner the of the Guardian award of best of something or other) magazine. I was writing down the web address but was concerned that I kept spelling it wrong. I often forget how to spell McSweeneys, because as I mentioned, I often do not call it by its given name.

My excitement caught the attention of other customer waiting in line. Who came over to the rack to look at the magazine. At this time I retired up the stairs to the bathroom. On my return, I found the customer who had started checking out the McSnickers. He complimented me on the greatness of the magazine and said he wished he had brought $10 with him. I told it was from Brooklyn and at this he made some faux-stereotypical remark in a faux-Brooklyn accent.

I did not but glance at the white additive to modern life, but placed it back on the shelf and placed my order: two regular coffees and a decaf-dry-cappuccino. I made a few more witty remarks to Kip as he was making the cappuccino. Another guy got my coffees, but I didn’t have a moment to ask him his name as I was too busy being witty and clever.

I got my coffee, added the half and half and sugar and set off with laughter in my step and happiness in brain on my way back across the freeway.

I saw a black dog as I was crossing the freeway back to the office. Maybe it was going to meet the other black dog friend at the coffee shop.

And this, M.R. is what I saw with eyes this afternoon. Just a few hours ago.

Heather Schlegel

San Francisco

- - -

“dlp in schön california” wrote:


here they sit.
four of the “latest” issue of the concern, or blues/jazz odyssey?.

i was actually told about your work after going to a friend’s house recently to “hang-out”. here, he said, get a load of this and showed me the wonderful ‘zine and told me a bit about Jim Stallard’s piece.

now, if some of my friends say that such-and-such is a nifty magazine it usually has something to do with fashion because a lot of these people are photographers, or maybe some kind of lifestyle stuff that i can’t afford to acquire anyway and it just ends up making me feel left out, or stereo mags, fuckin’-A don’t get me started on that stuff, but when this dude recommended McSw’s. i took note.

not too big of a note, since the copy was bought at BookSoup down in Hollywood and i never really stop in there because the parking is a bitch and the service is a bit snotty and there are perfectly good book shops closer to home here in South Pasadena, and that is exactly where i was yesterday, walking into Magazines Etc. in South Pas with the intention of looking through the import art magazines to find any mention of friends overseas.

there was no luck in that dept. but my eyes drifted over the shelves and there it was…the odyssey?! so i bought it and before long two friends were asking for the other copies that they had so i went back today and bought those suckers as well.

“you’re back.” said the beautiful croatian actress who runs the place. apparently she and her husband (god bless him) have come over to the U.S. to give the entertainment field in southern california a go, and this keeps the bills paid until then.

“yup,” i said “buyin’ you out.”

“really, great! what is this thing? let me check and make sure that $8 dollars is correct…”

“oh, it’s correct alright.” i said “…says so on the in-side.”

she seemed as pleased as me.

so i now had my copy, one for the roommate, one for friend number one but still had to find one for the ex-girlfriend whose birthday is coming up and lives in all places, brooklyn.

so i consulted your retailer list and booked on over to Vroman’s in Pasadena proper. i looked and looked and looked but it was not to be found. it is a good bookstore, but sometimes they just ain’t together so i asked.

“oh yeah, that thing…it never sold and i think i was just about to send them back.” the aproned counter-dude said as he led me to the storage closet. “yeah, here they are.”

“do yerself a favor dude…” i said, not outrageously, but loud enough so the other patrons at the front could hear me “…and by yerself one.”

maybe the shrinkwrap is scaring some folks off, but what do i know, they sure do look good.

anyway, if there is a point it is that this thing kicks-ass and i thought you might like to hear it. a couple of subscriptions will be requested soon, probably when i get back from berlin next week.


are there any back issues available? the one i have says late winter/early spring 1999.

how many of these have there been?

does the McSweeney’s office have a player that can access music stored in the format of Compact Disc?

thanks again and good luck,

david patton

- - -

Dear Sirs,

The following is a submission in the category of interesting buying experiences. I am not completely confident that it is interesting, but it is definitely a buying experience.

After reading about Mcsweeneys in a fairly long and almost wholly complimentary article in Canada’s new, readable, though somehow unsatisfying National Post, I tried to check out your site on the internet. After spending a quick moment with the lovely family at, I got on track and found the Mcsweeneys site. I was impressed enough to explore the “availability of the print version in canada” link. In fact, I was thrilled that such a link existed. Any non patronizing mention of Canada in US media of gives me a warm, content glow.

Deciding on the Lichtman’s store at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue in North Toronto as the best place to purchase a print Mcsweeneys, I hopped on the subway and headed north. When I finally got to Lichtman’s I spent a not unpleasant 20 minutes searching their extensive magazine racks. I finally realized I had no clue what mcsweeneys looked like. I approached a sales clerk and inquired as to the whereabouts of mcsweeneys. He gave me a look like I imagine a waiter gives you when you are in a very exclusive restaurant, and you ask for a secret, non-menu dish.

“We keep that with the journals,” he said, leading me back to a neglected, dusty aisle. He handed me the last copy and mentioned that a former employee of the store was contributing to the next (third) issue. I could not piece together why he was no longer an employee of the store, and didn’t have the balls to ask. Was he on Unemployment Insurance? Did his Mcsweeney’s piece set him off on a semi-lucrative spree of freelance journalism? Did he leave the mid-market charm of Lichtman’s for the superstore razzle dazzle of Indigo or Chapters? It is here that I ask you for help. What happened to this guy?

After boldly ignoring the staggering price of Mcsweeney’s,I made the buy, and went home to enjoy at least 55% of the content. I have since moved to Kingston, Ontario for my sixth year of undergraduate english studies. My request for a McSweeney’s at the down town Kingston Indigo bookshop was met with a puzzled, even slightly fearful response. On my way out of the store I heard the clerk mutter “mcsweeneys?” to a colleague as if to say “what’s his story?”

Enough already.

Feel free to edit this down to twenty words or even just delete it. It didn’t come out as whimsically as I had hoped.

McGregor Sainsbury

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Dear McSweeney’s,

I have a story about buying McSweeney’s that is probably not the usual story. Of course I got the second issue as soon as it came out, from a local independent bookstore, but then just recently (months after the second issue came out) I noticed that the local (San Francisco) Barnes & Nobles chain bookstore was selling McSweeney’s out of their magazine section. I was just browsing through the magazines there and I noticed several copies of the second issue of McSweeney’s, right next to the latest Journal of the History of Collections.

So just today it was my lunch hour and I thought it would be a gag to go buy a copy of McSweeney’s from the Barnes & Nobles near my work, even though I already had one, like I could give it as a gift, but the buying it was the whole point, because I was bored. So I grabbed one off the rack and brought it up to the front, where a woman behind the counter was named Athena. I gave her the McSweeney’s. She said this is a funny looking book. Then she held it up to her scanning device, and then held the device up to it, but she couldn’t tell how much the McSweeney’s should cost. But the device did tell her that it’s a magazine. She said oh, it’s a magazine. I told her it was eight dollars—eight sixty-eight with tax.

But she had to get that pricing data from the horse’s mouth, so she took it over to another machine, and then started consulting with a series of other behind-the-Barnes-&-Nobles-counter women. At that point I turned around and looked at people riding the escalator, so I wouldn’t make Athena nervous by staring at her. Finally she came back looking unhappy. I gleaned that one of the women had told her to charge me eight dollars for the McSweeney’s but that she would rather the machine had told her. I already had eight sixty-eight counted out on the counter, and I indicated it to her by raising my eyebrows and pointing with my chin.

She said do you want a bag? I said please.

She put the McSweeney’s and my receipt in a bag, which I grabbed and walked out.

The bag was made of HDPE. HDPE is an abbreviation for High Density Polyethylene, a type of plastic. Like all plastics, HDPE is made from petroleum products. The most common types of HDPE plastic containers are milk and water containers. These containers can be identified by the recycling code on their base—the number “2” inside three chasing arrows in a triangle. The bag had that recycling code on its base. HDPE bags are probably the most offensive kind of plastic bags in terms of loud crinkling and rustling sounds. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) is much quieter. I went back into the Barnes & Nobles store and walked straight up to Athena and asked if I could have an LDPE bag please. She said no, in essence.

I would have just left the store again, carrying the loud bag, but in addition to the rustling of the bag there was another problem. The bag was one of those with two holes punched in it at the top, one on each side, to approximate a handle. These holes were much smaller than my hand, not to the extent that I couldn’t get my hand in, but to the extent that it was very uncomfortable to hold the bag. I took the McSweeney’s out of the bag, stuck the receipt between pages 138 and 139 (in that difficult-to-read section), and headed back to work, leaving the bag behind me.

That would be the end of the story except for one thing. Two things. First, I ran into two women I know from work as I was walking toward work, and I showed them McSweeney’s and explained what it is and tried to convince them to buy a copy, but I don’t think they took me seriously. Then, after they went on their way, I accidentally dropped the McSweeney’s in a mud puddle created by a lawn sprinkler and ruined it. Which is ironic because I made such a fuss about NOT having in a plastic bag, when having it in a plastic bag when I dropped it would have protected it from mud damage.

— Faren Paine