Sunday, February 3

On regressive avant-garde*

The Sunday Times asks, Is Dave Eggers now the most influential man in literary circles?

So, what is it that makes Eggers’s empire so influential? The most obvious driving force behind its dramatic rise is the charismatic and indefatigable founder himself, who is not only a beloved author and literary style guru, but has also proved to be a crafty entrepreneur, busily creating a very modern publishing empire. His book-publishing wing features works by Nick Hornby, Lemony Snicket and Robert Coover, a key figure in the American experimental-fiction movement. There is also McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a frequently visited website that offers a wide range of satirical content – some of its better entries include Some Relatively Recent College Grads Discuss Their Maids and the wonderfully satirical Jenna Bush’s Book-Tour Diary of Hope. In 2003, McSweeney’s launched The Believer magazine, a monthly that includes a variety of cultural essays, interviews and profiles, though its main distinction is its long book reviews, which share a decidedly positive tenor. “We will focus on writers and books we like,” the magazine’s mission statement claims. “We will give people and books the benefit of the doubt.” Its editor, the talented novelist Heidi Julavits, wrote that the magazine was launched to combat “wit for wit’s sake – or, hostility for hostility’s sake”, and saw as its particular target the “hostile, knowing, bitter tone of contempt” that she famously dubbed “snark”. More recently, McSweeney’s launched Wholphin, a quarterly DVD magazine “lovingly encoded with unique and ponderable films designed to make you feel the way we felt when we learnt that dolphins and whales sometimes, you know, do it”. (Which, evidently, they actually do.)

*this is a joke

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