Pleasures lost #blogvember

I am one of the biggest fans of the interwebs. I love everything about them. I love blogs, online shopping, being able to search archives, twitter and the power of information at my fingertips. I love the instant solving of problems, weather forecasts, taxi bookings, holiday browsing and the settling of arguments. Exactly how old is anyone who has any kind of public profile? This information is usually available, right now. My favourite thing about the internet is that I never have to go into the library ever again for myself. The library is on the internet, straight to my e-book.

There are some pleasures lost. There are some pleasures forgone that I can think of that do make me sad. The loss of the pleasure of Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern is one that stands out. Beautiful, eccentric and bizarre, this quarterly journal once occupied a very special place in my reading life. Published quarterly, started by Dave Eggers in 1998 and available through Amazon in Australia, McSweeney’s was a window into a high production values, a brave and subversive form of publishing. In its infancy, McSweeney published only material rejected by other magazines. It was an editorial position that was later abandoned in favour of fiction of new writers and established writers alike. I came to McSweeney’s through the McSweeney’s Internet Tendency Lists. I whiled away hours thinking up lists to submit. Lists included things like “Top ten opening lines to novels I won’t write”, gems such as “Words and phrases I hope never appear in front of my name in print”.

Quarterly Concern

This list browsing led to book browsing, then to internet ordering of the marvelous journals. Expensive, air-freighted, Amazon delivered beauties. I loved them. All the different stories, the quirky formats, the issue made to look like it came in your mailbox, complete with fake junk mail advertising ‘plural’ clothes to be worn by more than one person at a time. The comb that came with issue 16 which also contained a short story printed on tarot cards and two journals in a fold out box. The Icelandic issue with the latest in contemporary Icelandic fiction, came with a pocket mag and also: runes. As it states on its back cover.

The market for such publications cannot be huge. The mere fact that McSweeney’s exists at all is a mystery only explained by Dave Eggers. My love of the internet almost made me forget about McSweeney’s and deny myself the pleasure of reading them. I stopped using Amazon following the rise of Booktopia, and after Amazon changed their shipping and it seemed to take an eternity to receive the merchandise. As I didn’t frequent Amazon as much, I wasn’t being pestered with ‘you might also like’ for the new issues. I got busy, I read a lot of material online. I haven’t bought an issue for years. You can follow them on Twitter, or read The Internet Tendency, but that seems beside the point. After blogvember, it’s back to black marks on wood pulp for a bit, and to the magic that is the highly original and fantastical McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. They would make an excellent gift for wordy types with everything. Keep that in mind.