cover image The Best of McSweeney's

The Best of McSweeney's

Edited by Dave Eggers and Jordan Bass. McSweeney's, $28 (624p) ISBN 978-1-938073-59-5

A stunning snapshot of modern literature compiled by McSweeney's founder Eggers and executive editor Bass, this eclectic collection of stories, poems, comics, and essays marks the 15 year anniversary of the San Francisco-based literary journal. Originally published under a pseudonym, David Foster Wallace's comically dismal "Mr. Squishy" sets up themes of consumerism, modernity, and futility that are revisited throughout. Unbending social critique is continued in Steven Millhauser's fantastical allegory about phantoms in small town America and Sheila Heti's futuristic tale where all decisions are made by Blackberry's. Other highlights include Dan Chaon's morbid story of a recovering alcoholic father; Jennie Erin Smith's story on a wanton reptile smuggler; Jonathan Ames's NYC crime-noir; and works by Lydia Davis, Zadie Smith, Lydia Millet, Wells Tower, Adam Levin, and Rick Moody%E2%80%94to name a few. Julie Hecht's nostalgic article on Marimekko dresses grapples with the ennui of maturity, a concept that is echoed in works by Kevin Brockmeier, Jennifer Egan, Deb Olin Unferth, A.M. Homes, and Clancy Martin. Shining international contributions include Roddy Doyle's riveting first-person narrative of a child refugee attending school in Ireland and works by Nyuol Lueth Tong and Ellen van Neerven-Currie. At times overly comprehensive, the breadth of this enthralling collection is also its triumph, an inimitable retrospective on modern storytelling. (Dec.)