Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National has a lengthy appreciation of McSweeney’s that isn’t as well-sourced as one might like: Managing editor Eli Horowitz gets a lot of room to expound on the amazingness of the journal, and only one author is cited as an example of a quality writer who got his first break there. Then again, the writer is Philipp Meyer, author of the excellent novel American Rust, and he describes the publication of one of his first short-stories there as a “life-changing thing”:
[I]t does this incredible thing for people like me, or people like me five years ago if that makes sense. Because a lot of publishers, for reasons of legitimacy, feel the need to include big writers. Or maybe it’s not even for legitimacy, maybe it’s just to put names on the front cover that will sell. And usually, to be honest, it’s the crummier work from those writers. They rarely, if ever, take risks on folk who they’ve never heard of. You might not have heard of them as the reader, but it’s almost always someone on the magazine who knew someone, someone’s old professor makes a call and gets the story in.
I think the standard complaints about McSweeney’s still apply, and though in my old age I can’t work up the same attitude toward the publication I used to, I’m still skeptical about their offerings, especially their books. Of course, I’m also still going to buy that newspaper issue, but you’ll notice that the PR page doesn’t stress the amazing-unknown-writers angle; the issue’s innovation is its design, not its corralling of lesser-known writers.