McSWEENEY’S ISSUE 22

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Issue 22 is a three-part exercise in inspired restriction — of author, of content, and of form. In section one, poets (yes—poets!) including Mary Karr, Denis Johnson, Michael Ondaatje, and DC Berman initiate poet-chains, picking a poem of their own and one by another poet, who will then, thus inducted, do the same, and then again, and again, and so on until an appropriate moment. In section two, Fitzgerald (yes—F. Scott Fitzgerald!) provides a list of unused story premises first cataloged in The Crack-Up; his mission is completed by writers like Diane Williams, Nick Flynn, and Sam Lipsyte. In section three, finally, the president of France's (yes—France!) legendary Oulipians offers a rare glimpse into his group's current experiments with linguistic constraint. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

 

Table of Contents

Book 1: From The Notebook: The Unwritten Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ian Caldwell - Establishment Claws
"Girl and giraffe"
It so happened that on the third day of his crawl between the acacia trees of the jungle, the sloth peered up and saw that all the flowers on the sunny side of the great gum tree had disappeared.

Sam Lipsyte - Peasley
"The man who killed the idea of tanks in England–his after life."
The Man Who Killed The Idea of Tanks in England sipped tea in his parlor somewhere in England.

Salvador Plascencia - Returned
"**** **** running away from it all and finding that the new ménage is just the same."
After three months of charting moon phases and watching tides through binoculars, Espie knows tha the sea will not return her brother.

Miriam Toews - The Misstep
"Play: The Office––an orgy after hours during the boom."
Edward, a thirty-ish man in jeans and a T-shirt, is alone on an empty stage, speaking directly to the audience.

John Beckman - Clear Channel
"Girl whose ear is so sensitive she can hear radio. Man gets her out of insane asylum to use her."
This man, this uncle, claims me like laundry (sorted, folded, snugly bagged) from the forest horizons of Whisper Oaks (Sanitarium, Asylum, Bell Jar, what have you), and has claimed me, he has, in his clean black Packard, during my pink minority year, the purplish season of autumnal sleaze when my condition has ripened, mellowed, matured, has reached its puberty, like a compost heap.

Judy Budnitz - Finally
"The Tyrant Who Had To Let His Family Have Their Way For One Day"
He started out with one wife––he was a young man and his prospectes were uncertain.

Stephany Aulenback - White City, Thin Air
"Fairy who fell for a wax dummy."
“I am extraordinarily selfish,” Cecilia says to the man, who looks like the kind of man who might have unused rink tickets.

Sigrid Nunez - The Poor Girl
"Girl marries a dissipated man and keeps him in healthy seclusion. She meanwhile grows restless and raises hell on the side."
She was a pretty girl, and everyone knew her story.

Marc Bojanowski - The Flying Machine
"Driving over the rooftops on a bet."
Jack looked down into the half-filled grave and then up to ragged patches of low clouds gathering above the hills to the west.

Tom Lombardi - The Bear
"Lois and the bear hiding in Yellowstone."
“I have to dump,” Lois announced.

Matthew Sharpe - Bert as a Boy
"For Play. Personal charm. Elsa Maxwell. Bert. Hotels. Pasts––great maturity of characters. Children––their sex and incomprehension of others. Serious work and worker involved. No more patience with idlers unless about them."
The scream woke me.

Michelle Orange - Last Man Standing
"Play opens with a man run over."
When they walk in the street he takes her arm.

Diane Williams - For Now, I Was Tall
"Play about a whole lot of old people––terrible things happen to them and they don’t really care."
For now, I was tall and fair and I have been to Spain.

Jincy Willett - Twinkle, Twinkle
"A bat chase. Some desperate young people apply for jobs at Camp, knowing nothing about wood lore but pretending, each one."
The first thing that happened was when her mother pulled up to let her off in front of the church, and Caro was in such a hurry to get out that she opened the passenger door too son, before they’d gotten up next to the curb, but they were close enough so that the door edge dug into the grass, and she started to get out, but her mother said, “Wait, don’t get out yet, I have to back up,” and Caro, posed half out of the car, stared at the wide curved door hinge right in front of her, a thing she’d never seen before, as the car strained in reverse, and then something cracked with a deep unresonant twonk.

Carey Mercer - The Merchant’s Ring
"Helpmate: Man running for Congress gets hurt in line of other duty and while he’s unconscious his wife, on bad advice, plans to run in his stead. She makes a fool of herself. He saves her face."
“In that golden yoke,” san the merchant, shaking me so that I saw only the radiant horizon at the edge of this wicked scene, “swims England, most treasured of states,” and the winds bolted to the back of the ship and I saw with my native eyes a God-blessed garden swimming in the embryonic haze: shepherds danced with morsels in their mouths, and the queen pardoned the confused, and my vision was only half an orb, for the other half extended into the depths of the horizon and calmed the waters and enriched the earth of England.”

Rachel Ingalls - A Gift of the Gods
"The Dancer Who Found She Could Fly."
There was once an ugly princess.

Lydia Millet - Girl and Giraffe
"Girl and Giraffe"
Girl spent the first nine months of her life as a ward of one Ronald Ryves, a sergeant in the Scots Guards.

Book 2: The State of Constraint: New Work from Oulipo

Harry Mathews ………………….Thirty-Five Variations on a Theme from Shakespeare
Hervé Le Tellier ………………….The Sextine Chapel
Paul Fournel ………………………Once Upon a Colony
Ian Monk …………………………..Our Why and Our Where and Our How
Jacques Jouet……………………..Landscape Monostiches
Jacques Roubaud…………………Correspondence
Harry Mathews……………………The Poet as Outlaw
Olivier Salon………………………..The Ear
Marcel Bénabou…………………..Perhaps
Frédéric Forte……………………..Who Are You (3:54)
Michelle Grangaud……………….Calendar
Lynn Crawford…………………….To Have Not and Have
Ian Monk ……………………………a russian con’s economic missive
Olivier Salon………………………..Exert
François Caradec…………………Christmas
Anne F. Garréta…………………..On Bookselves
Harry Mathews……………………An Epithalamium

Book 3: The Poetry Chains of Dominic Luxford: Poets Choose Poets Till We Have Fifty

David Berman to Brett Eugene Ralph to Bernd Sauermann to James Tate to Charles Simic

Mark Doty to Brenda Shaughnessy to Olena Kalytiak Davis to Alice Notley to John Ashbey

Lynn Emanuel to Tomaz Salamun to Thomas Kane to Brandon Som to France J. Harris

Denis Johnson to Michael Burkard to Patrick Lawler to Linda Tomol Pennisi to Mary Stebbins

Mary Karr to Courtney Queeney to Terrance Hayes to A. Van Jordan to Ruth Ellen Kocher

Yusef Komunyakaa to Tracy K. Smith to Tina Chang to Larissa Szporluk to Heidi Johannesen Poon

Michael Ondaatje to Lisa Robertson to Caroline Bergvall to Rodrigo Toscano to Kaia Sand

Atsuro Riley to Kay Ryan to Sarah Lindsay to Pattiann Rogers to Jane Hirshfield

C.D. Wright to Brenda Hillman to Harryette Mullen to Elizabeth Alexander to Forrest Hamer

Dean Young to Mary Ruefle to Ralph Angel to Ángel García