Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
A good article on McSweeney's.

An excellent article from Lorraine Adams in The American Prospect: The Write Stuff: From cult to culture, Dave Eggers and Co. are taking their idealism to the streets. Some interesting observations in there, including the following passage on their newfound stance on politics:

In 1840, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, founding editors of the Dial, published a letter to readers. The journal, Emerson wrote, was united against any convention that was "turning us to stone, which renounces hope, which looks only backward, which asks only such a future as the past, which suspects improvement, and holds nothing so much in horror as new views and the dreams of youth. ... And so with diligent hands and good intent we set down our Dial on the earth. We wish it may resemble that instrument in its celebrated happiness, that of measuring no hours but those of sunshine. Let it be one cheerful rational voice amidst the din of mourners and polemics."

While McSweeney's is hardly the Dial, and Eggers is no Emerson, there are interesting similarities. Optimism is only one. There are also commonalities between 826 Valencia and Bronson Alcott's Temple School, founded in 1834, with its colorblind admissions and emphasis on imagination to foster learning among children.

McSweeneyites also seem related to the pragmatist tradition, described in Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, a collective biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Peirce, William James and John Dewey. While not their intellectual equals by any means, the McSweeneyites do seem to share that quartet's belief that ideas are, as Menand writes, "tools -- like forks and knives and microchips -- that people devise to cope with the world in which they find themselves. They believed that ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals -- that ideas are social. ... Ideas should never become ideologies -- either justifying the status quo, or dictating some transcendent imperative for renouncing it."

Another favorite line:
There is an implied McSweeney's economics: What is valuable is made in batches, the hand of its maker much in evidence. There is a McSweeney's psychology: Previously outmoded warmth is defended with a force field of self-consciousness. And there is McSweeney's endorsed music: Exemplified by the band They Might Be Giants, it is a cross between understated rock and nursery chant, with quizzically cerebral lyrics.
Ah, my kind of people.

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