What I’ve Been Reading: McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #30

And here we are, just one day later, with another What I’ve Been Reading book report.

What I’ve read:

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #30 – Dave Eggers (editor)

The reason behind the suddenness of this one has a lot to do with why I had given up on the WIBR format as it was. I had finished both Liar’s Poker and Outliers a few weeks ago. But rounding up the energy to write the entire seventeen page diatribe was difficult, especially when I’m – you know – busy.

So I made the decision to do these one book at a time. With that in my head, I put off writing about the two books even longer – long enough for me to finish yet another book in the meantime.

Thankfully, this book was just another McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, a short story vice I have subscribed to for a few years (and talked about on this site for as long).

With short story collections like these, it’s difficult to summarize, mainly because it’s a grab bag of authors and styles and stories. This one, with it’s Obama-centric cover of relief, is no different. It does, however, feature a Story by a Famous Person. Two or three issues ago, it was Stephen King (Ah! A Truly Famous Person in the hallowed pages of McSweeneys! What a Treat!). This time, it’s Michael Cera.

Yeah. Juno Michael Cera. Big Fancy Movie Star Michael Cera. The one guy who was poised to derail the entire idea of an Arrested Development feature film. That Michael Cera.

I thought to myself, “What does THIS guy think he’s doing? Where does he get off, trying to be an alternacool indie actor AND a thoughtful super independent writer?”

“You can’t be both Casey Affleck and David Foster Wallace, my friend. You can’t have your cake and shit where you eat, too.”

I may have gotten the idioms messed up. I dunno. All I do know is that I wanted to hate the Michael Cera story, “Pinecone.” I really did.

But I didn’t. It was good. Not fantastic – it wouldn’t go into my fictional list of great short stories, a list I have been planning to create for several years – but good.

Funny enough, a story earlier in the collection came to mind. By Kevin Moffett (a McSweeney’s regular), “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events” is about a son who struggles to write a great story, only to find that his father, who is not classically trained, who is just dabbling in the art of storytelling, has taken up writing as a hobby and blown his son out of the water. It’s a fantastic story, and it hit me hard – the writers block, the thoughts of insufficiency, all of it.

The son wants to hate his father’s stories – he doesn’t want to admit that his father has talent. But he does. And that’s how I felt with Michael Cera. I wanted to hate the story, but I couldn’t.

Ugh. Can you believe that? Where’s the passion?

This was lovingly handwritten on March 27th, 2009