Friday, March 7, 2014


Three magazine issues, this from last year, one 17 years old and almost of legal majority, one essentially as old as I am, approaching a half-century. 

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern is the protean magazine edited and published by Dave Eggers, whom I've recently described here thus: Dave Eggers, the author of a precious and highly popular memoir of taking care of his younger brother, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, itself by title alone indicative of Eggers's tendency toward the desire to do (genuinely) good work (often in the sense of charitable, though he clearly strives artistically) in various directions and to simultaneously congratulate himself for doing so in the most smugly adorable manner. 

Everything that's good and bad about McSweeney's is embodied in this issue, which, happily, still results in a pretty good reading experience for those who might be only somewhat misled by the laziness of thought of Eggers and staff, following on a whimsical notion of the boss. Eggers had finally gotten around to reading Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories Not for the Nervous edited by Robert Arthur (Random House, 1965) and Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow edited by Ray Bradbury (Bantam, 1952), and decided that it would be kewl to, not so much reprint either book (the Hitchcock-branded book hasn't seen a new reprint of the two Dell paperbacks taken from it since about 1973, I'm not sure when the last Bantam Pathfinder YA reprint of the Bradbury was offered), but to take selected stories from each volume and cast them in a sort of competition between the two "editors" (Eggers and his staff couldn't be bothered to learn that Hitchcock essentially never edited a book, and certainly not any in the "AH Presents:" series; in his editorial introduction he also manages to completely conflate the best-of collections from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, which AH also never edited, with the "AH Presents" and other anthologies branded with Hitchcock's name, most of those edited by Robert Arthur before the latter's death in 1969)...mixed with four new stories Eggers thinks are compatible with his gleanings (and a cover image and title inspired by Sherman Alexie's first collection of short stories, for which Eggers was careful to ask obligations trumping scholarly ones, doncha know).

courtesy Bradbury didn't, either, no mention is made of C.L. Moore's contribution to the Kuttner story, and of course Eggers is blissfully ignorant of the ghosted status of introduction reprinted as by Alfred Hitchcock (the numbers in parentheses are the length of the item in pages):
Table of Contents
Letters From Cory Doctorow, Jamie Quatro,          6  (13)
Benjamin Percy, and Anthony Marra
Introduction                                       19 (6)
          Ray Bradbury
    A Brief Message from our Sponsor               25 (2)
          Alfred Hitchcock
    The Sound Machine                              27 (16)
          Roald Dahl
    Night Flight                                   43 (8)
          Josephine W. Johnson
    Dune Roller                                    51 (48)
          Julian May
    The Design                                     99 (30)
          China Mieville
    The Laocoon Complex                            129(14)
          J.C. Furnas
    The Pedestrian                                 143(6)
          Ray Bradbury
    Wrong Number                                   149(94)
          Lucille Fletcher
          Allan Ullman Sorry
    The Dust                                       243(46)
          Brian Evenson
    The Enormous Radio                             289(14)
          John Cheever
    Saint Katy the Virgin                          303(10)
          John Steinbeck
    For All the Rude People                        313(16)
          Jack Ritchie
    Suicide Woods                                  329(10)
          Benjamin Percy
    In the Penal Colony                            339(30)
          Franz Kafka
    The Pilgrim and the Angel                      369(12)
          E. Lily Yu
    Housing Problem                                381(18)
          Henry Kuttner
    None Before Me                                 399(36)
          Sidney Carroll
    Don't Look Behind You                          435
          Fredric Brown
The four new stories are the Yu, Evenson, Mieville and Percy contributions, and I've yet to read them, but their presence is indicative of some sense of whom to go to for the kind of elegant fantasticated and crime fiction otherwise represented here, even if Eggers can't get out of his own way in his brief editorial ("Who knew Cheever could write speculative fiction?" Anyone who's read Cheever, probably, and certainly "The Enormous Radio" is not one of his more obscure stories). Except for the new stories, and the cover if you must, you might do better emulating Eggers's own example and picking up used copies of the two anthologies for considerably less than the $24 the magazine issue goes for, as nicely produced a "quality" paperback as it is, given that Eggers is not the editor that Arthur or Bradbury were. Though I will give Eggers this...I've yet to get around to the Bradbury book myself, since I'd read about half the contents elsewhere by the time I'd become aware of it, and am glad he was able to find and share some of the joy of Robert Arthur's editorial work as an adult, even if resolutely doesn't credit it. 

the Contento indices:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories Not for the Nervous [ghost edited by Robert Arthur] ed. Alfred Hitchcock (Random House LCC# 65-21262, 1965, $5.95, 363pp, hc); Derivative Anthologies: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories Not for the Nervous (Dell 1966) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents: More Stories Not for the Nervous.
Dell pb, Vol. 1 of 2
  • ix · A Brief Message from Our Sponsor · Alfred Hitchcock · in
  • 3 · To the Future · Ray Bradbury · ss Colliers May 13 ’50
  • 18 · River of Riches · Gerald Kersh · ss The Saturday Evening Post Mar 8 ’58
  • 31 · Levitation · Joseph Payne Brennan · ss Nine Horrors and a Dream, Arkham, 1958
  • 36 · Miss Winters and the Wind · Christine N. Govan · ss Tomorrow May ’46
  • 42 · View from the Terrace · Mike Marmer · ss Cosmopolitan Dec ’60
  • 53 · The Man with Copper Fingers [“The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers”; Lord Peter Wimsey] · Dorothy L. Sayers · ss Lord Peter Views the Body, London: Gollancz, 1928
  • 72 · The Twenty Friends of William Shaw · Raymond E. Banks · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Mar ’60
  • 81 · The Other Hangman · Carter Dickson · ss A Century of Detective Stories, ed. Anon., London: Hutchinson, 1935
  • 95 · Don’t Look Behind You · Fredric Brown · ss EQMM May ’47
  • 107 · No Bath for the Browns · Margot Bennett · ss Lilliput Nov ’45
  • 111 · The Uninvited [“A Prince of Abyssinia”; Daniel John CalderSamuel Behrens] · Michael Gilbert · ss Argosy (UK) Mar ’62
  • 122 · Dune Roller · Julian May · nv Astounding Dec ’51
  • 163 · Something Short of Murder [as by O. H. Leslie] · Henry Slesar · ss AHMM Nov ’57
  • 177 · The Golden Girl · Ellis Peters · ss This Week Aug 16 ’64
  • 182 · The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes · Margaret St. Clair · ss Maclean’s, 1950
  • 192 · Walking Alone · Miriam Allen deFord · ss EQMM Oct ’57
  • 206 · For All the Rude People · Jack Ritchie · ss AHMM Jun ’61
  • 220 · The Dog Died First · Bruno Fischer · nv Mystery Book Magazine Fll ’49
  • 242 · Room with a View · Hal Dresner · ss AHMM Jul ’62
  • 252 · Lemmings · Richard Matheson · vi F&SF Jan ’58
  • 255 · White Goddess · Idris Seabright (Margaret St. Clair) · ss F&SF Jul ’56
  • 261 · The Substance of Martyrs · William Sambrot · ss Rogue Dec ’63
  • 269 · Call for Help · Robert Arthur · ss Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Apr ’64
  • 285 · Sorry, Wrong Number · Lucille Fletcher & Allan Ullman · n. New York: Random House, 1948
Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow ed. Ray Bradbury (Bantam A944, Sep ’52, 35¢, 306pp, pb)
  • vii · Introduction · Ray Bradbury · in
  • 1 · The Hour After Westerly · Robert M. Coates · ss New Yorker Nov 1 ’47
  • 15 · Housing Problem · Henry Kuttner · ss Charm Oct ’44
  • 33 · The Portable Phonograph · Walter Van Tilburg Clark · ss The Yale Review Spr ’41
  • 40 · None Before Me · Sidney Carroll · ss Cosmopolitan Jul ’49
  • 54 · Putzi · Ludwig Bemelmans · ss, 1935
  • 60 · The Daemon Lover [“The Phantom Lover”] · Shirley Jackson · ss Woman’s Home Companion Feb ’49
  • 77 · Miss Winters and the Wind · Christine N. Govan · ss Tomorrow May ’46
  • 84 · Mr. Death and the Redheaded Woman [“The Rider on the Pale Horse”] · Helen Eustis · ss The Saturday Evening Post Feb 11 ’50
  • 94 · Jeremy in the Wind · Nigel Kneale · ss Tomato Cain, London: Collins, 1949
  • 98 · The Glass Eye · John Keir Cross · ss The Other Passenger, London: Westhouse, 1944
  • 116 · Saint Katy the Virgin · John Steinbeck · ss The Long Valley, New York: Viking, 1938
  • 125 · Night Flight · Josephine Johnson · ss Harper’s Feb ’44
  • 133 · The Cocoon · John B. L. Goodwin · ss Story Sep/Oct ’46
  • 152 · The Hand · Wessel H. Smitter · ss Story Feb ’47
  • 164 · The Sound Machine · Roald Dahl · ss New Yorker Sep 17 ’49
  • 180 · The Laocoön Complex · J. C. Furnas · ss Esquire Apr ’37
  • 194 · I Am Waiting · Christopher Isherwood · ss New Yorker Oct 21 ’39
  • 204 · The Witnesses · William Sansom · ss Fireman Flower, London: Hogarth Press, 1944
  • 210 · The Enormous Radio · John Cheever · ss New Yorker May 17 ’47
  • 223 · Heartburn · Hortense Calisher · ss The American Mercury Jan ’51
  • 235 · The Supremacy of Uruguay · E. B. White · ss New Yorker Nov ’33
  • 239 · The Pedestrian · Ray Bradbury · ss The Reporter Aug 7 ’51; F&SF Feb ’52
  • 245 · A Note for the Milkman · Sidney Carroll · ss Today’s Woman Apr ’50
  • 257 · The Eight Mistresses · Jean Hrolda · ss Esquire Aug ’37
  • 267 · In the Penal Colony · Franz Kafka · nv; Kurt Wolff Verlag, May ’19.
  • 296 · Inflexible Logic · Russell Maloney · ss New Yorker Feb ’40
The Paris Review issue is an unusually good one even for the dependably interesting late issues of George Plimpton's career with the magazine (ending with his death), with a long interview with Grove Press and Evergreen Review publisher Barney Rosset which covers a lot of (fascinating, to me) ground, and an even longer one with Jeanette Winterson, and fiction by Sheila Kohler (an excerpt from her novel Cracks), fantasist Steve Milhauser, Kristina McGrath, Mark Richard and Melvin Jules Bukiet, portfolios by Shirin Neshat and Fred Tomaselli, and poetry by Billy Collins and a host of others. Even though the Review has found some of its footing again, and the heir to Plimpton, quickly fired by the bosses and succeeded by their golden boy who produced a brief slew of dumbed-down issues, has a good magazine of her own in A Public Space, it's still easy to miss the magazine as it was while Plimpton was still willing to try new things, four decades after founding the magazine...

As I noted recently on the blog, here: 
The Ladies Home Journal was offering Saroyan fiction, and young Candice Bergen on the cover, along with a memoir of literary Paris from Katherine Anne Porter.

[FictionMags Index entry, which I'll hope to expand:]
Ladies’ Home Journal [v81 # 7, August 1964] (35¢)

As with the Paris Review issue, I've recently picked up an inexpensive copy of this issue, and while I haven't read the Coward novelet yet, I have read Shirley Hazzard's graceful short (about a couple striving to make up after the wife admitted to a fling with another man)(and I've definitely seen the fine illustration work of Austin Briggs elsewhere over the years), William Saroyan's "Alive" is slightly less compressed and even better (and almost the template of a ?quasi-autobiographical? Saroyan short story, about a young writer's brief career in the funeral industry), Katherine Anne Porter's memoir is brief but charming and mostly of Sylvia Beach and her Shakespeare and Co. in the years between the World Wars...Beach typically attempts to introduce Hemingway and Porter to each other after hours on a rainy night, citing the young writers as two of the best  modern fictioneers, then leaves them in the front of her store as she goes to the back to take care of some bit of business; left alone, the two stare at each other for a moment, say nothing, and Hemingway turns and stalks back out into the downpour. Phyllis McGinley offers a chapter from her soon to be published cautiously feminist account of women's estate in the mid-'60s, Sixpence in Her Shoe. It remains startling how much this magazine, still the legatee of the dominant years of the Curtis Publishing Company and with all the top editorial staff men (women at the next level, and perhaps the real workers), doesn't much resemble the current LHJ except in the other aspects of the magazine...the bad recipes, the fashion tips (though a 19yo Bergen looking alternately professionally cheerful and rather distressed in Mary Quant outfits probably doesn't quite happen the same way in the current magazine), the ads (Tab was just being introduced by Coke, which noted how successful Diet Rite had been for RC Cola)....

For more of today's books, mostly, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


Kelly Robinson said...

Thanks for this post. I'm a huge fan of Eggers and McSweeney's. I've submitted to them a few times, and always been rejected. I considered it a badge of honor that the rejection for the last piece I sent them began, "This one has its charms ..." I'm making progress, I suppose!

Todd Mason said...

So, did you place the works in question? If so, where? As you can tell, I have a mixed assessment of McSWEENEY'S, though it does average better than THE BELIEVER or WHOLPHIN (now folded) among the Eggers outlets...

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

The Eggers is fascinating to me in terms of its engagement with the subject despite what might otherwise be seen as a rather crippling ignorance - in its own way, drawn as I am to those who profess to a a kind of perpetual amateur status, there is a charm at work - and the stories of course more than speak for themselves. A wonderful concoction you have given is here Todd - quite a heady brew in fact! Cheers!

George said...

Like you, I have issues with MCSWEENEY'S. In the last issue I read, Elmore Leonard had the best story. As a kid, I read those Alfred Hitchcock anthologies in the DELL paperback format. Loved them!

Todd Mason said...

Sergio--As often in such cases, I'm not sure how one can go through the necessary work to get permission to reprint the ghosted Hitchock prefatory note, and generally seek out the handful of stories from the AHP volume, and never tumble to the facts of its gathers the worker bees are at least as blase as Eggers or unwilling to enlighten him for fear of embarrassing him.

George--yeah, the genuinely good writers solicited, rather than McSWEENEY'S "discoveries" and regulars, tend to contribute the best work in any given issue. It was in Dell's interest, I suppose, to confuse matters as much as possible about Hitchcock's involvement with these anthos, and to all appearances they have succeeded well. But the best-ofs from AHMM were always at least good (and C. B. Gilford or someone similar could usually be counted upon for a horror story in the mix of crime fiction) and the Arthur and Harold Q. Masur AH PRESENTS: anthos were better.

Kelly Robinson said...

>So, did you place the works in question? If so, where?

I recently sent the "this one has its charms" piece to another market (an anthology), so we'll see what happens. It's a strange bit of writing, so there aren't a lot of markets it's suited for.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, you might be surprised, Kelly...strange is the current mildly commercial...