The 36th issue of McSweeney’s is an eclectic collection that attempts to imagine what the contents of someone’s head might look like--in a figurative sense, of course. As Brian McMullen writes in his introduction to this head: “I’d love nothing more than a chance to crack your forehead open along a tidy seam and give the contents of your mind a nice gore-free sift.” The grey matter here is about as uneven and scattered as you might expect; and it’s successful more in its overall concept than in its constituent parts. Some notables: a serialized painting by Ian Huebert, John Brandon’s short story “The Occurences,” and a beautifully illustrated hand-written story by Sophia Cara Frydman.
There’s a lot of other stuff in here, including a lost novel “wrecked” by Michael Chabon with a lovely foldout poster-jacket, a two-act play by Wajahat Ali, and a roll of cleverly phrased fortunes for fortune cookies that, unfortunately, do not come with the head. The most odd--and perhaps the most interesting--is “Bicycle Built For Two,” which claims to be “an imaginary Mike Myers/Dana Carvey buddy comedy about pro baseball on a tandem bicycle.” It runs for an unnecessary eighty pages, and is fun for about the first five. The inclusion of this project, however, seems necessary for the overall concept to really work. I thoroughly enjoyed this “gore-free sift,” as it brings together a wide variety of projects that I otherwise would not have encountered. As McMullen points out: “How do you publish a brilliant play, or a hand-written mini-story with seven drawings, so that a reader will think to seek it out, so that they might be attracted to it, so that they might read it? A human-head box...is an ideal delivery system for work like this, we hope.”