McSweeney’s #21

ISBN: 1932416617
ISBN 13: 9781932416619
By: Dave Eggers McSweeney's Publishing

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Anthology Contemporary Fiction Currently Reading Fiction Mcsweeney Mcsweeney S Mcsweeney S Quarterly Mcsweeneys Short Stories To Read

About this book

With work by Roddy Doyle, Stephen Elliott, Peter Orner, Joyce Carol Oates, Yannick Murphy, and Miranda July, as well as the triumphant return of Arthur Bradford and stories concerning fistfighting Mormons, New Zealand policemalfeasance, and a man named Trang, and with all of those works interspersed with heartfelt letters to Ray Charles and storyboards by some of the finest pen-and-ink artists of our day, our twenty-first issue is sure to be one of our best assemblages yet.

Reader's Thoughts

Jack Delicious

I learned to love McSweeney's.


Some of the stories in this anthology were completely unrelatable but I did thoroughly enjoy a few of them. I especially loved the one about the birds of paradise--it was written in a beautiful style reminiscent of modern magical realism that I could easily devour another hundred pages of.

Dusty Matthews

The Strange Career Of Doctor Raju Gopalarajan by Rajesh Parameswaran on p. 77 is wonderful.


Nothing stood out at me, but a fun enough read.

Jody Grant

I always love McSweeney’s. 21 features really enjoyable block art accompanying each piece that was just as delightful as the stories. I like that you can play around with these journals beyond the written word. I love such creativity in publishing and I only with there was more of it. From this collection, “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan” by Rajesh Parameswaran was a great find. I loved this story. It’s beautifully crafted and really stayed with me. I think this is the kind of piece people in fiction workshops all over the land are trying to write.

MJ Nicholls

Hits: Rajesh Parameswaran, Miranda July, Arthur Bradford, Greg Ames, Joyce Carol Oates.Misses: Stephen Elliott, Yannick Murphy, Holly Tavel, Kevin Moffett, Christian Winn.The rest were somewhere in between. Rajesh Parameswaran's "The Strange Career of Doctor Raju Gopalarajan" was a strange wonder and wins my improptu BEST STORY IN #21 award.


mysterious and great. loved everything - starting from the cover and to letters to Ray Charles after each story. though it is difficult to write after some time anything specific. good short stories like a flash - take you all in fast and then change as fast from one to another. you simply don't get bored.

Rachel Stern

this was my first mcsweeney's quarterly. All of the stories are very, very engaging. I didn't even know I liked short stories that much. The Balloon and the las story, (the one by Joyce Carol Oates) were both particularly ineresting.




I'm giving up. It's been on my bedside table for months and I have zero desire to pick it up. I barely got through the first 2 stories... I guess I'm not a McSweeney's gal after all.


it was very very cool and interesting but my lack of literary skills prevented me from fully understanding and absorbing the meaning of the story :( but even so, it was a lovely read which i enjoyed immensely :)

Sam Quixote

I only read half of the stories in this book and couldn't bear to carry on. Because, my, this is a bloody depressing book! I like McSweeney's, I think it's got a lot going for it but bloody hell, this volume, let's have a little humour! Maybe because it's Sunday night but I'd like something that's not so bloody serious and sober minded! The first story is by Chloe Hooper called "The Tall Man" and is about the doomed and miserable lives of Aborigines on a remote Aussie island. They're all alcoholics, wife beaters, and generally get abused by the police all the live long day. One of them is beaten to death by a police officer in jail and the police officer gets off. That's the whole story! The next one is a damn boring Literary story about "modern" love so I won't bother. Roddy Doyle's story is about dead babies. Rajesh Parameswaran's story is about a simpleton Indian immigrant who decides to become a doctor. He maims a patient and, its implied, kills his wife in the end (who by the way had inoperable ovarian cancer). Miranda July's story is about a middle aged woman whos in love with Prince William and is taunted by a younger more attractive sister who calls her and tells her all about her varied sexual encounters, taking pleasure in the fact that her dumpy older sis can't get laid. In the end the older sister wishes for a giant earthquake to cover her in rubble. A. Nathan West's "The Balloon" is the last story I could read in this book and is about an elderly man who loses his wife and is shouted at by his middle aged siblings who think about his upcoming death. You see what I mean? How utterly miserable the stories in this book are! Read individually they'd probably be fine but lined up in a row like this, it's like being kicked in the balls repeatedly, and, because it's Literary, being told to like it! Urgh, I'm going to read something that's perhaps a bit more balanced and not filled with despair and morbidity all the time. Actually there was one story that had some humour to balance the pathos called "Snakebite" by Arthur Bradford but it was too little too late. And the letters sent to Ray Charles add nothing to the book, they could be added or taken away it doesn't matter. And also, the design of the quarterlys is usually good. This one's cover looks like it was drawn by a 5 year old and is just an ordinary paperback. Very dull. Update: I finished the book months after putting it down and despite a number of poor stories there were a couple of gems. Greg Ames' "I Feel Free" is about a man who tries internet dating and winds up with a batty woman and her even weirder ex-boyfriend living with him. The story is funny and well written with a great ending that makes you want to read more of Ames' work. Joyce Carol Oates writes about Sam Clemens aka Mark Twain in his twilight years. He's 70 years old, having trouble writing his latest book "The Mysterious Stranger" about Satan in 16th century Austria, and is haunted by his daughter Susy who died very young. He begins a correspondence with other young girls whom he calls "Angelfish". One of these correspondences goes badly for the young girl and an increasingly ill Clemens. This is the best story of the collection and asks me once again why I've not read a Joyce Carol Oates book. Well written, interesting story, great characterisation of Clemens (though not having a great depth of understanding about the man can't say how accurate it is) and despite being the lengthiest story at 43 pages, it's the quickest read as it's so good. Pick up the book for this story.


As far as McSweeney's goes, this is a pretty so-so issue. The big winners in this one are Rajesh Parameswaran, Greg Ames, and Joyce Carol Oates- Their three stories are fantastic, some of the best I've read in Mcsweeney's. The rest- some good, some meh.


My friend Greg's story "I Feel Free" is in this issue. Read it now. He's brilliant.Or go to his website -


Thank you Internet, thank you Goodreads, thank you Jean, thank you McSweeneys.I never heard of McSweeneys until I saw it pop up in the timeline of one of my goodreads friends. It looked very interesting so I ordered a few back issues. One of these issues was #21 and I was immediately blown away by the whole concept and especially the unique design of each issue. Without the Goodreads (or the Internet) allowing me to connect to friends thought gone, I would have never encountered this series.I immediately got a subscription (a combo with The Believer monthly mag, which is also a good read) and am now back ordering as many issues as I can.Since I am a sucker for layout and design I decided to give all McSweeneys issues a biased 5 stars.

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