In mid-June, the editor of an electronic literary magazine called The Rag sent me a message on Goodreads, asking if I’d read and review the latest issue. He said the mag was gritty and transgressive, and that he’d read some of my “thoughtful literary reviews” and thought I’d enjoy it. I didn’t get the message until this month because I hadn’t bothered with Goodreads since May, but I was super stoked (and a little confused) that an editor of a lit mag (however unknown) liked my reviews so I asked him if he was still interested and he sent it along.
Of course, after he sent me the mobi for my kindle, I looked over some of the Goodreads reviews from other readers and found that this editor had sent the exact same message to everyone he contacted. He’s read some of everyone’s “thoughtful literary reviews,” and I don’t know why I was surprised that we all got the same message, but I was. Really, I was more surprised that he said liked my reviews (especially since I only have a few on Goodreads and most of them are barely reviews at all), so even though this realization bummed me out a little, it also provided an explanation, so I was kind of okay with it.
Even though I wish he would have left that fake flattery out of his message, I figured I might as well read the mag since I said I would. And now I’m going to review it, not because I told him I would, but because it’s one of a very few amount of books/other publications I have ever refused to finish and I should probably document such a rare thing.
The first half of the magazine is… okay, I guess. I thought there would be a lot of variety in a magazine full of stories composed by a dozen or so people, but I guess not! The magazine has a central theme: the blurred lines between right and wrong and what causes good people to go bad. Maybe that’s why the authors’ writing styles all felt so similar to me, but I think it’s actually because they were all trying so hard to be profound that everything just mushed together.
The first story is the only one I could stand. It’s about a woman who has fallen in love with a dead man, or, more accurately, a dead man’s body. And yeah, she totally has sex with it. Obviously, that is illegal, but she defends her love of that dead dude in a very interesting and almost convincing way that makes it all seem a lot less icky than it actually is. I guess when you throw true love in the mix, lines get a bit blurrier. I mean, she’s happy, and the guy isn’t happy OR sad, and no one is being hurt. His body can rot in the ground, or she can have sex with it because she (somehow) loves it. I can say it’s nearly acceptable because it’s (hopefully) fictional, but this story did not change me. If tomorrow I heard an actual news story about a woman who stole a dead body because she loved it and she wanted to hump it in a cabin in the woods, I would be like “GTFO, that is beyond disgusting.”
Anyway, yeah. Blurred lines and whatnot. I didn’t necessarily enjoy the rest of what I read, but I didn’t hate it either, so that was cool. But then I got to the worst story ever.
There are a great deal of people who care about animals as much as they care about other humans, if not more. I am one of those people. A few weeks ago, I watched a video in which a short series of events led to an innocent dog being shot by police officers. This was actually in the video. It happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to stop the video. I saw the dog get shot and I saw it laying on the street, twitching. I cried for hours. I had nightmares. If I’d known what the video was, I never would have watched it. Never. That’s how I feel about Zeke Stargazing.
A wife and mother of three children is bed-ridden and decides to get a puppy to keep her company while everyone’s away during the day. She names him Zeke, and he’s cute or whatever but then he eats her foot while she’s asleep. She doesn’t blame him though because he’s just a teething puppy, and after a short stay in the hospital she’s back in bed with her little pup. Soon, it’s Christmas Eve, and two of her children decide to murder Zeke, wrap him up, and give him to her as a Christmas present. Not because Zeke ate her foot, but for some other reason I don’t know. Maybe they are psychopaths. Probably.
The kids might not have actually planned to kill Zeke, but I stopped reading when I realized what they were going to do and I skimmed through enough to know that the dog died. Hey, I’m okay with violence and death and whatever. I can do the “grittier, transgressive side.” I’ve read books where helpless babies die and it’s sad but it’s also just a book so it’s not the end of the world, but bring a pet into it and I just can’t do it. I can’t. If an animal dies naturally or is killed out of necessity or hunted by another animal, I get that. But the torture and outright murder of an animal is too much for me.
After stopping at that story, I couldn’t bring myself to continue. I imagine the remaining stories/poems aren’t quite the stuff of nightmares, but I don’t care to find out. I’ve deleted the mag from my kindle and I guess I could say I’m sorry I didn’t read the whole thing, but I’d be lying just like the editor guy who said he liked my reviews, and homey don’t play that game.