O U R   D I R T Y

BY the M.C.

- - - -

For one week, and one week only, we will present this note. It will be our only note. It will exist in its own archive, readily accessible, as one would expect of an archive.

To reiterate our note from Friday:

We have never signed an email 'Dave', 'Dave Eggers,' or 'Mr. Eggers.'

That would be absurd and mean- to Dave Eggers, and to his correspondents. In the beginning, we signed e-mails "The M.R." We did research most (I might claim all, but I can't remember) the .net site, to see if at any point Dave Eggers ever claimed authorship of the title 'M.R.' To our knowledge he had not. Nonetheless, we were concerned about confusing people. In other parts of this site it is clearly delineated that we never started this with the intention to deceive maliciously. Instead we opted for the M.C. (which is always me), the McSweeney's Catchpole. Some people took this as a parody of the M.R., but if this is so, it is also self-reflexive (one literal root of catchpole is 'chicken chaser').

People making explicit requests of Dave Eggers, we tell them as gently as possible that we cannot help them. We help as much as possible with re-directing submissions, and subscription problems. And we tell creepy people that they are, and that maybe they need professional help.

We feel compelled to publish this page because we suspect that our actions are being misrepresented, possibly out of frustration, possibly out of malice, to the proprietors of mcsweeneys.net. We do not level these accusations at any particular person, as we have no direct contact, now, or in the past, with anyone representing themselves as a owner, employee, conspirator, et al, of mcsweeneys.net.

We are also saddened by this necessity, as we feel it dilutes our gesture, and breaks what was until now a fairly consistent effort that made no conscious acknowledgement of the distinction between the two sites. I should be more specific in saying 'I' here, because mcsweeneys.org comprises several distinct editorial voices and interests. I have relied on their varied and valuable input, and this open letter does not represent consensus in any way, so I apologize to those whom I have sought input from and subsequently ignored.

And of course, at this point, everyone can point their finger and say, oh yea, you have been salivating for this moment of ego grandstanding for two months. Of course I have; after all, our role model has done very well publicly agonizing over the very same issues. Well, here it is. Let us continue.

Dave Eggers has, obliquely, accused me of impersonating him. And he mentions instances of having to publicly declaim our certain independence. As much as we are satisfied in hearing of the latter, he most certainly wants to cast us as malicious by presenting the former.

In both cases, I guess I should be flattered. We certainly hoped to present a synthetic version (many thanks to Cathy Hong for this metaphor) of mcsweeneys.net that would be almost indistinguishable from the 'original.' I never really wanted to be Dave Eggers, the rumors of his notorious success with the ladies notwithstanding. For a while, I thought I was Carl Steadman, but a careful assessment on the part of several friends convinced me otherwise.

Why did I want to make this synthetic?
The first certainly was the challenge to simply see if I could. Obviously, the design was easy to recreate. But to convince visitors that we were either a replacement of the 'original' (the site went live while mcsweeneys.com was the home of McSweeney's) or that we may have been another version of the mcsweeneys.com 'joke' created by the 'real' mcsweeneys, that was considerably more difficult. On both counts, we have succeeded, it seems (this conclusion is not drawn from our own arrogance, but based on various reports and correspondences).

There are reasons beyond this, but this is not necessarily the forum for such a discussion. No one has actually asked 'why?' and we think many of the reasons are obvious.

Granted the quality of writing of our site has been weak at points. At others, we are quite proud of our efforts, and of the wonderful submissions (the disturbing number of men hating exes stuff, we would rather not comment). This was not the most well planned exercise. But, really, we shouldn't be making excuses for ourselves. We made our own sandbox.

There are some things we find ironic. We find it ironic when Dave Eggers takes such a tone of wearied superiority with his frustration with my 'wanting attention'. For those who don't see our actions as a terrible transgression of some universal literary trust, or as if my efforts were somehow going to shatter this delicate figurine called McSweeney's, this comment may be certainly be obvious, but didn't he try out for the Real World and then write a memoir with his effort included as a transcript? Wanting attention? Forcing a point as much as possible to get it? Let he who is without sin, indeed.

Now what?
Since launching the site, we have never contacted anyone to publicize its existence. The only press mention I am aware of is the Village Voice, and they found out about us because mcsweeneys.net was gracious enough to provide a link to our site for several days. As I hear about the people being confused or whatnot, I wonder, why didn't they just ask? We have received some emails from folks asking, but we ignore those that ask things like 'Why are you guys doing a lame parody of McSweeney's' because such correspondents are making a statement more than asking a question, it isn't a parody, and it's a pretty lean operation around these parts. Anyone who has made credible comments, or asked good questions has received the most thoughtful response I could muster. And we thank all those who have helpfully provided proofreading assistance, though I want to take the time to point out to those who were rather self-righteous about the quality of copy editing at mcsweeneys.net that Zev Borow still thinks that April 22 was a Sunday [not anymore- Ed.].

Over the past couple weeks, I thought we were on the verge of developing an editorial voice that was becoming somewhat independent. Our audience has diminished and stabilized to the point where readers knew the situation, and would be sympathetic and interested if we were to slowly evolve into something else. We haven't really planned, but are interested in thinking about the possibilites. Maybe the McSweeney's Farm Team. The Annoying Little Sister to McSweeney's. It doesn't make sense to use the URL for anything else, even if we have a readership. But I did misjudge how much many people would think I was trying to hijack their 'thing.' Again, we have been readers and fans of McSweeneys's for some time, but we rather taken aback at the cult (and its exclusivity and anger) that had evolved.

I still think the relentlessness of the near facsimile is an excellent idea. It is overly cerebral, to the point that there is almost nothing to find funny. And that, that I find funny. But I am a little off, it seems. So, thanks to everyone for reading and for interesting comments, letters and submissions. We will leave this much too long note up for a week or so, and do some thinking about where to go next. Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated. It won't be democratic so voting 'go away' won't get you anywhere, if that's how you feel. Have a nice day.

Nic Musolino (the M.C.)

A Clarification Our note from last week (05/26/00)
Our Voice Interview Transcript of notes we sent to the Village Voice (04/13/00)



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