Saturday, April 24, 2010

McSweeney's, No. 33: The San Francisco Panorama (2010)

I'm not usually much of a McSweeney's reader, but my cousin loaned me a copy of McSweeney's, No. 33: The San Francisco Panorama (2010), edited by Dave Eggers and his gang. In this experiment, the McSweeney's crew decided to celebrate everything that was great about traditional print journalism and the large canvas provided by newsprint -- kind of a eulogy to the dying format, as well as a call for its rebirth. What they ended up creating is an overwhelming thing of beauty -- beautiful because of the full-color printing and the striking layouts, and overwhelming because it is over 300 pages long. This is a seriously intense newspaper.

So here is a thing about me: I don't really like newspapers. Physically, I mean. They are hard to hold, make a lot of noise, and are practically impossible to read while laying down (which is my favorite way to read). I read most of my day-to-day news online, and for longer pieces of journalism I prefer magazines (shout out to Harpers, the best magazine on earth!). That being said, the Panorama really does take advantage of the large format and prints some gorgeous photographs and very smart infographics that wouldn't have worked in a smaller medium. So there could be something in this embrace of the newsprint medium for certain tasks.

It might be my reading preferences talking, but my favorite parts of the Panorama were the magazine enclosures (one for books and another more general magazine). And of course the comics -- comics are the exception to the rule in my dislike of big newspapers. The bigger the better for the comics pages. There is some first rate journalism in the Panorama, and the short story by George Saunders in the books section ("Fox 8") was worth the cost of admission alone.

While I initially balked at the size and "newspaperyness" of the whole thing, I'm very glad I stuck with the Panorama. Thanks McSweenoids! And thanks, cuz!

[There is a nice description of the project here, including some lovely pictures]

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