I’m passionately ambivalent about McSweeney’s. They’ve published some very good books, like Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital. On the other hand, there’s something self-consciously quirky about the way they present themselves that just irritates me.
Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs and Some Other Things mostly benefits from the McSweeney’s attitude. I’m guessing that’s where the fantastic image on the cover, and the colourful pictures on the inside come from. The cover is really special, as a physical presence this book is delightful as a book can get. The only real obnoxious McSweeneyism is the extremely long version of the title on the front page. It’s like a paragraph, and for some reason that annoys me.
This book is fantastic, though. It’s an anthology of children’s stories written by luminaries such as George Saunders, Neil Gaiman, and a foreword by that Lemony Snicket guy. Clement Freud’s Grimble also appears. The only author missing is Roald Dahl, and I know that one of his stories would have fit right in here. So would some Quentin Blake illustrations.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Unfriendly Blobs is the crossword placed before the author bios. The clues refer to the stories, and the answers are printed upside-down on a tiny box on the last page. This is a great idea that I fully intend to steal if I find myself editing a short-story anthology.
If you need to get some kid a birthday present, buy this book, read it and then give it to them. That way, you’ll be the thoughtful one!