Magazine Review - The Rag

Flattery will get you everywhere - that's the case with me at any rate. Lovely accolades regarding my book reviews on Amazon were bestowed upon my by Dan Reilly, an editor of the new, marvelous literary magazine, The Rag. There are eighteen pieces of literature; I'll highlight my favorites.

The Rag

Imagine opening a jewelry box and discovering a delightful collection of off-beat, unique gems you wouldn't expect to find in one place, yet they somehow belong together. The Rag, Issue 5, Winter/Spring is this in literary form. Short stories comprise the majority of the pieces in this literary jewelry box; the poetry and subversive artwork by Meredith Robinson give the collection undeniable pizzaz.

To varying degrees this magazine explores the darker side of the human psyche. If the cover art of sunglassed-man with what looks like blood smeared around the outside of his mouth doesn't clue you in, the first story, Memento Mori by Stefani Demas will. This story was first for me - never have I read about necrophilia. We join the female main character just after she's kidnapped a corpse from the funeral home in which she's employed and is on the run. She informs us: "I was five years old when I remember seeing death for the first time. I knew even then that I was interested." She then goes on to describe the beauty of the mutilated corpse of a sparrow she'd just watched a cat decimate. My favorite bit 'o wisdom from this story is "Signs are the universe's shiver. They're telling you that you're okay now, but you should stop. Keep going and you're an idiot. You were warned."

Something that struck me as I read was how much this is a romantic take on necrophilia. She's in love with "Nicholas" and is certain he feels the same way about her. She describes her situation: "How is my story any different from a fairy tale? In the original Sleeping Beauty the prince doesn't even know that she's sleeping, he thinks she's dead, but she is so astoundingly beautiful that he can't help himself and he plucks from her the fruits of love. And still she does not wake! It's only when one of the infants she births nine months later sucks the dreaded piece of flax from beneath her fingernail that she is rouse. And then we changed it, made it so it's only a kiss with immediate resurrection. But still, I can't be the only one." Also, during her previous encounter, with "Leon", "I tucked my forefinger between the the two pieces of fabric, checked behind me and slowly kissed leon. His lips pushed back with an intensity matching my own.... As we kissed the power went out. Was it caused by the energy that flowed between us?" Macabrely romantic.

Despite the shock-and-awe of Memento Mori, my favorite is a tale of rogue justice in a small town located at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Yes Officer, by John Woods. The blunt, straightforward storytelling reminds me of Stephen King at his contemporary best.

The main character is intelligent, and confident without being cocky. He left the small town to get a college education then returned to become a peace officer.  He's married with a young daughter. The story opens with him at the scene of domestic abuse. This is not the first time the police have been called to this house, and of course no charges are pressed. That the last thing he says to her before leaving is, "You deserve only what you allow." made me smile.

The discussion back at the precinct about the abuser showcases that he's been on their radar for a while, yet can't get anything legitimate to hold him on. And there is a poignant scene when he picks up the human punching bag's daughter at school because nobody came for her, and he asks if she's ever been hit. She replies that her Mommy doesn't let that happen. The scenes with his family, for me, highlighted what an enigma he is for a hick town - he teaches German to his daughter, regular workouts, a wife who does yoga and make salmon, wild rice and broccoli for dinner - but he still fits in. The rogue justice is set in motion after he's told to stop by a diner because the human punching bag was there with fresh, horrible bruises. He lambastes her, she runs out to her car where her daughter was waiting - with a bloody mouth.

John wraps up the tale up with a nice, satisfactory bow and left me anxious for his next work.

Putting in the Work by Steve Russo is an exciting, bloody tale of a successful small-time criminal who's noticed by a big-time criminal and is sent on a mission with two other guys whom he doesn't know. He doesn't consider himself a bad person, but in the end he digs deep to find his darkness in order to complete the mission.

The Observer Effect by Matthew Meade is an amusing little ditty about an adulterous wife, her lover and husband. Her lover is younger than she, a starry-eyed idiot who wants her to leave her husband and run off to New York with him. He then brings up the notion of killing her husband, so she can keep their restaurant (and money). There's quite an amusing twist ending.

The Rag closes with Olivia, by Philip Zigman. I was completely skeeved out by this one. Olivia is a narcissist with a perfect nose. Her entire life she's been showered with compliments on her, perfect, perfect nose. BUT it's just a smidgen too large for her body. She visits a plastic surgeon who won't touch her nose, because "to do anything to it would have been to offend god". The surgeon instead wants to perform a myriad other surgeries to try and make the rest of her body as perfect as her nose. I love how he feeds her ego by saying "this wasn't an idea he would share with everyone" and "she's not a dimwit airhead deadbeat who had such a such a lack of character and fortitude and inner strength so as to be a black hole for those traits, swallowing them up from those around, not to hoard for oneself but to simply extinguish. No, I was a woman, still young, no doubt, but with experience, a personality, work ethic, perseverance, and - well, you know, just not one of those". A cape of courage for the Super-Narcissist! The details of the surgeries, some things that go wrong and the physical pain are incredible! I was curling my toes and grimacing the whole time. An excellent closing piece!

Kudos to Dan and his co-editor Seth Porter for their selections - I can't wait for the next issue!


Popular posts from this blog

Bunker Musings II - Pretty Flowers and an AM Yum

Bunker Musings I - Finding Joy and Gratitude

Dear Rachael