July 22, 2017

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 26

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern 26If you’ve not come across McSweeney’s Quarterly Concerns before it’s a collection of creative writing (usually short stories) published each quarter.

Number 26 is the first one I’ve read – it comes in 3 parts. The 2 small (pocket sized) books you can see in the picture, and a 3rd section which is a guide to American foreign policy called “Who to Invade next”. I’ll be totally honest the 3rd section really doesn’t interest me that much (but a friend of mine who’s very into this stuff says it was rather good, and also rather funny).

The 2 smaller sections are based on a series of books produced during the late 19th and early 20th century that were small enough for soldiers to carry whilst at war.

McSweeney’s main difference from other literary journals is that every edition is different – and I mean wildly different. One’s a newspaper, this one is in 3 parts, there are others many many parts, and the usually have the most exquisite cover artwork – and often unusual to boot. Anyway, back to number 26.

These 2 are filled with a series of short stories:

Black Shaman by Dana Mazur

an extract from her coming novel

I’m glad this is an extract from a novel, as it’s too short and far too intriguing not to be!

It tells of the activities and death of a shaman, and the kazakh afterlife.

Joe, Spain, 1971 by Stephen Smith

A snapshot of a Canadian family and the parental relationship seen through the lens of a child remembering it’s brothers brush with journalistic fame. (hard to explain but kinda enjoyable).

Porcus Omnivorus by Ismet Prcic

in 2 parts, one in the first book and the other in the 2nd book

The modern history of Yugoslavia told first through the life of Mustafa’s grandfather, and then jumps to the 1990s and we experience a very hungover day in the life of Mustafa himself who wonders into the wrong Bosnian party.

Despite being so short quite an eye opener to some relatively recent European history.

Oh, and the title could refer to one of several things in the story – all of which are just plain wrong.

Death and Burial Among my People by Rob Sears

A sneaky window into the traditions of gypsies via the arrangements of one funeral. Well written and very enlightening.

The Italian Actress by Frank Lentricchia

A strangely told tale of a love affair between a videographer and a director in Italy. Not a favourite of mine from this collection.

Pentimento by Uzodinma Iweala

A woman remembers her life as she learns of her husband’s death and deals with the immediate aftermath. Very powerful and lyrically written.

Moving Crucifixion by Barry Craid Powell

The title refers to a man riding a motor bike through the traffic of Dubai whilst standing on the seat.

The story is about a man who is bored of his marriage and is searching for something else. (to say much more would give away too much).

Arkansas by John Brandon

This is an except from the book of the same name. From I can work out it’s when the 2 main characters of the book meet and get to know each other. They’re 2 men working for a gangsta, driving things around America. And the ending of this excerpt is will make you flinch in sympathetic pain.

Sleep by Amanda Davis

At just 3 pages this is the the shortest in the collection. And explores the emotions in the purchase of a second hand bed.

It seems to be here to publicise the Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award.

Charity by Wayne Harrison

About Vic, the owner of a garage who takes on a man who’s on parole called Royce. It then explores their relationship and also with Royce’s son Sam.

How Jesus Comes by Michael Gills

Beautifully captures the occurrences in the middle of a tornado, from the physical to the silly human thoughts. Wonderfully structured and written – my favourite from the collection.

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