McSweeney’s #40: (Literary) Mixtape of the Month

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So it’s always given me a thrill when a bunch of musicians I love play a song together, and I also sort of feel that way about writers. If anything, writers are even more of a thrill — since ordinarily writers are such solitary creatures, and outside of mystery novels and James Patterson marathon novel-writing sessions, the idea of writers teaming up rarely if ever happens. But the new fortieth issue of the literary journal McSweeney’s has a bunch of favorite-worthy writers in it — some of my favorites, and some of the site’s favorites — and it would be a considerable disservice if I didn’t give it a shout-out.

I mean, just check out this picture of Neil Gaiman discovering the issue for the first time:

So Gaiman, who (depending who you ask, and what sort of mood they’re in when you ask) is Jewish, or has Jewish heritage, or (this one I’m pretty sure about) occasionally uses Jewish protagonists and folktales in his work, has a great little story called “Adventure Story.” I could try and explain how Jewish it is, but I feel like that would only be preying on Jewish stereotypes, and it’s too good a story to spoil it that way. So let me instead share the first lines with you, and you can do your stereotyping and connecting-the-dots for yourself:

In my family, “adventure” tends to be used to mean “any minor disaster which we survived, or even “any break from routine.” Except by my mother, who still uses it to mean what she did that morning. Going to the wrong part of a supermarket lot and, while looking for her car, getting into a conversation with someone whose sister, it turns out, she knew in the 1970s would qualify, for my mother, as a full-blown adventure.

So, um, yeah, Jewish mothers.

And it’s sort of a one-two punch, since Adam Levin also has a story. And Israeli author Etgar Keret, who we profiled recently on Jewniverse) follows his story with his classic melange of funny/heartbreaking called “A Good One.” It’s mostly about a man’s (spoiler) (not really) mental breakdown, but on another level, it’s sort of about cultural miscommunication and the weird, and weirdly successful, things that Israeli businesspeople do to get a foothold in the competitive world of American marketing.

Posted on May 25, 2012

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