mcsweeney’s captures the gone grandeur of the twentieth-century newspaper.
Issue 33 of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern takes the form of The San Francisco Panorama. Published on giant newsprint, the latest creation of Dave Eggers and gang is a kind of romanticized, fetishized idealization of the classic urban daily. It’s a brilliantly strange move, for the articles zip and zap with the energy and flash of an online news aggregator, but they make you recall the sheer beauty and thrill of the newspaper.
The San Francisco Panorama reminds one of what made the newspaper so great as an object: it compressed the feeling of living in a metropolis into a satchel. It was destined for scrap paper, butcher wrap, fire kindling, and, in more recent times, the recycling pile. It was merely a common part of everyday life. At the same time, in its heyday, the newspaper was perhaps the most important, vital, miraculous, valuable thing you owned: for without it you were stranded, lost, alone, without company, even the company of strangers. Within its columns, one accessed civilization.
McSweeney’s issue 33 recovers this feeling by its transposition of the urban daily to magazine form. You are pretending to read the daily here. The pleasure is the same as entering a great antique store. You wonder, why would anyone ever give this stuff up?
Then, clicking away, screened from the past, you realize that only when nobody wants yesterday’s papers do we start to appreciate the newsprint all over our fingers.