Monday, April 26, 2010

"Twenty Questions"

Last week, McSweeney's won a well-deserved National Magazine Award for Fiction...

Last night, for the first time in a while, I browsed for a few minutes and Barnes & Noble (read: looked to see if Personal Days was stocked...yes! measly copy!) and spotted a great-looking cover—clumps of hand-written text, a doodle or two (I think)—of what? I couldn't see a title...some of the textual clumpage seemed to be written by, or about, Siri Hustvedt? Hmmm. I opened the cover—it was the latest issue of McSweeney's! (That's how book covers should work, right? A bit of mystery...enough to get you to pick it up and open it....)*

And it turned out to be not just any issue, but the one featuring "Twenty Questions," by my former student Bridget Clerkin!

For now I will just say it is an electrifying story, and I think I mean that literally—reading it again made the hairs stand up on my neck again, just as they did when I read a version of it over a year ago. (And now I'm horripilating again, just writing about the previous horripilations!) This story is so good—and so good at producing this sort of follicular response that surely the barbering/styling industry needs to take note?

I think this is one of those debuts that you'll remember, the way I remember reading George Saunders's "The 400-Pound CEO" in Harper's back in ’92 and thinking: I haven't read a voice like this before, this is something new, something I need, I am going to read Saunders from this point forward...

Now: You will be saying this about Bridget Clerkin!

*Looks like someone liberated one of the two volumes of the current issue from its slipcase. Here's what it looks like, complete with title:

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