Book Review: The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
By Lauren Herstik on March 17, 2014
Amidst the white noise and the sound and the fury and the cat videos cluttering the internet, there are small pockets of quiet clarity: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is one of them. For fifteen years – or basically forever in internet time – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency “was a website that ran all its articles in the same font and within abnormally narrow margins,” according to itself. All of said articles spoke for themselves against a stark, white background, and what they said was often very, very funny.
Now, the best of those things has been compiled in the aptly-titled The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a real, tactile hardcover book edited by Chris Monk and John Warner. It’s the analog twin to the website, a plain, white cover with simple black print. (Be warned, it’s beautiful, but instantly gets very dirty if like me, you read at the beach or have hands.)
The fifty entries comprise the best and brightest of the most esoteric corner of the internet. For those of you who have been following the site, or have Facebook friends who do, titles like “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” and, “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole,” will be welcomed like old friends.
The best of it tends to lead toward celebrity identity appropriation: The Baroness Elsa Schraeder leads off with her open letter in, “I regret to inform you that my wedding to Captain Von Trapp has been cancelled.” Elton John receives a letter from a NASA administrator, Indiana Jones is denied tenure, Optimus Prime’s insurance claims prove untenable, and Michael Ian Black assumes the identity of Billy Joel in his piece.
Additionally, there are two separate pieces derivative of Hamlet: “Hamlet (Facebook Newsfeed Edition),” which assumes strong working knowledge of a play you likely haven’t read since high school; and “Hall and Oates and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,” which assumes a strong working knowledge of the Hall and Oates songbook.
In most cases, the shorter the piece, the more laugh-out-loud punch it packs, as is the case with Luke Burns’ “FAQ: The ‘Snake Fight’ Portion of Your Thesis Defense,” and Wendy Molyneux’s “Hello Stranger on the Street, Could You Please Tell Me How to Take Care of My Baby?” These are both self-explanatory in subject matter. One entry got the royal treatment in a collaboration with New York Magazine’s Vulture, with animation by Jesse Benjamin and music by Paul Sprangers and the voice-acting stylings of H. Jon Benjamin. A recurring entry, “On the Implausibility of the Death Star’s Trash Compactor” and subsequent responses to the initial complaint, are funnier in conceit than in execution, unless, of course, you’re either an engineer or an extremely zealous Star Wars fan, or suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in which case these entries are right up your alley.
The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is a great collection behind a tastefully designed cover that will compliment just about any coffee table or toilet-side book collection both in form and content. It’s available at the McSweeney’s website store now.