Book Title: Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability to Absorb the World’s Guilt
Author: Jim Goad
Why I Consider This Book Odd: 1) Jim Goad wrote it. If you have been paying attention to fringe and ‘zine culture for the last fifteen years or so, this should be enough said; and 2) The cover sports a pic of Goad praying under a large, behaloed turd. I love the cover. A lot. I have always had a healthy love of all things scatological.
Type of Work: non-fiction, memoir
Availability: This book is still in print. Published by Feral House, you can find it in any number of places. One of them is Amazon. Behold:
Comments: Jim Goad is a lord of political incorrectness and the mind behind one of the most infamous ‘zines ever, ANSWER Me! Though I was aware of ANSWER Me! when I was in college, I never read any of the issues until 1-3 were released in a collection. Though ANSWER Me! only released four issues, this ‘zine landed Goad into all sorts of unintended consequences that cemented his position as a shit magnet. Shit Magnet is Goad’s side of all the notorious and, frankly, bad things that have happened to him, it is compelling reading to be sure and much of it is directly related to or stems from ANSWER Me!
Like when women felt violated, or raped as it were, by the infamous “rape” edition of ANSWER Me! and when they could not get the ‘zine removed from the shelves in a Portland store, they went after the stores on obscenity charges. The stores were found not guilty, but it seemed that most people missed the greater irony of the “rape” issue. The intent behind issue four was to demonstrate, as Goad eloquently put it, that “radical feminism had become so lost in theory and drowned in self-righteousness that rape had become viewed more of a political idea than a physical act. Feminism had grown unable to distinguish words from actions to such a degree that the two became switched: Women felt literally “assaulted” and “violated” by sexist language and imagery, whereas actual rape was viewed as an ideological tool of the patriarchy, almost more of a statement than an act.” By trying to convict book stores of obscenity because Goad’s language “hurt” them, members of the feminist camp just proved his point for him.
(As an aside, as I was reading Shit Magnet, a news story came on describing how a Habitat for Humanity construction site was robbed. The woman for whom the house was being built said that the theft was an assault against her and that she felt violated. This inappropriate use of words describing violence for non-violent acts is now firmly entrenched in the popular mind.)
But it got worse for Goad. The 1994 White House Shooter, who discharged an SKS assault rifle outside the White House, evidently read ANSWER Me! 2 and found inspiration for his actions. Francisco Martin Duran read “Can you imagine a higher moral calling than to destroy someone’s dreams with a bullet…?” and decided the way to do this was to shoot impotently near the President’s abode. Luckily Goad was not used as a witness at Duran’s trial, but the tenuous connection between Goad and Duran was cemented in the media and Goad became seen as a terrorist force.
And then the suicides… Three seriously disturbed young Britons took a bizarre inspiration from ANSWER Me!, came to the USA, and killed themselves. These suicides were especially haunting for Goad because one of the girls involved called him shortly before the suicides in order to verify his address (she did not explain why she needed the address nor did Goad ask why but after she was dead Goad received a sum of money that he returned to her parents). She was silent on the phone and Goad, unable to pull much out of her, eventually terminated the conversation. Goad empathized with the girl to an almost unbearable level, understanding all too well the impulses behind suicide and wishing he could have done something to stop it.
But while all of this and more show Goad’s role as a shit magnet, the soundest argument for Goad as a weather vane for bad juju happened in the form of Anne Ryan.
Jim Goad is a man who did some bad things. He admits that over the course of their marriage, he hit his wife Debbie at least ten times. He admits to cheating on her. His marriage had been a mess for a while when he met Anne Ryan, or rather Anne Ryan made herself known to him. This introduction roughly corresponded to Debbie Goad’s diagnosis with terminal ovarian cancer.
By his own admission, Goad’s relationship with Ryan became very sick very quickly, the two of them going so far as to have sex in Debbie’s bed while she was in the hospital receiving chemo. And while I am certainly no apologist for Goad’s clear shitheadedness in the realm of personal relationships, Ryan was a nightmare. When Goad began to pull away from her, she waged a full-bore campaign to both terrorize him and to get him back. Goad, whose emotional life was unraveling at a rapid clip, found it difficult to maintain his own restraining order against Ryan, and his relationship with her became even more bizarre.
According to Goad, Ryan would wrap herself around his legs or torso in a vise grip to prevent him from leaving. She physically attacked him when he was driving. After sex one night, as things were going straight to hell (and Jesus, Goad still slept with her after her death threats, her violence and ironclad evidence that she was crazy), she trashed his apartment and took a shovel to his car. And still he could not stay away from her.
The horrible relationship finally came crashing to a halt when Goad finally lost his shit and beat the hell out of Ryan. Despite the history of both mutual and one-sided combat, Goad faced 25 years for assault and kidnapping, but ultimately Ryan proved such a bad witness with a history of mental illness and bad acts that Goad was able to plea down and served less than three years. I think anyone who looks at the case with open eyes will see that had Goad not already been notorious for ANSWER Me!, his assault case would not have attracted the attention and the call for extreme justice that it did.
Goad’s situation with Ryan brings up a cultural norm I have always felt was stupid – men should never hit women. Really? Even when a woman hits a man first? Even when a woman hits a man repeatedly first? Even when a woman is posing a clear danger to a man or to someone else? Why exactly is it that men cannot do a thing to harm a woman without utter public censure from the extreme left, but women can harm men and sometimes become cultural icons for doing so. As Goad says in the book, “When Lorena Bobbitt sliced off her husband’s bratwurst, comedians joked about it for a year. Imagine the laughter if he’d mutilated her vagina.”
Some people may wonder why I believe Goad’s accounts over anything that Anne Ryan had to say on the topic. My answer is that I had formed an opinion of her before I ever read Shit Magnet. I felt creeped out by her before I ever even knew Goad’s side of what happened. One day, when aimlessly Googling and Wiki-ing, I stumbled across a site run by Anne Ryan, or Sky Ryan as she went by on the site americanbar.us. The site is no longer extant, but it used to have an unlinked path, available only through Google searches, that contained the last diary entries by Debbie Goad before she died of ovarian cancer.
In reading those journal entries, I felt something was seriously wrong. Anne Ryan, who had hated Debbie Goad and slept with her husband as she lay ill, somehow allied herself with Debbie, a sick and deeply troubled woman, before and after Jim went to prison. Debbie’s diary entries described a bizarre conversion to Christianity and accusations against Goad that seemed unrealistic on their very face. I can believe that Goad hit Debbie – he cops to it in Shit Magnet – but I cannot believe he hurt their animals. As I read the accounts of animal abuse, I felt like Debbie was being manipulated, that someone was egging her on to create stories in her fragile mental state.
But worse were the depictions of Debbie contacting people on the other side, dead people (or at least people she thought were dead – I recall her making contact with Ronald Reagan a cool five years before he died). The whole diary was a depiction into a dying woman’s descent into madness, and it seemed disgraceful and manipulative to have posted it. Moreover, that Ryan, who had mocked Debbie as she screwed her husband, ingratiated or inveigled herself into Debbie’s life and posted Debbie’s saddest moments, gave me pause about believing anything she had said about Goad. There is something… sick or unsettling in Ryan’s association with Debbie Goad. I cannot find the words to express how disturbing I found it. When I read Ryan’s site, I wanted to read Shit Magnet and find out more about it but I never got around to it until I started this site.
The sort of person who could, in the name of supposedly making amends, exploit a dying woman is far scarier to me than a man who might hit me in the face if I push him over the edge. Goad discusses in the book how Debbie and Anne allied themselves in an attempt to assassinate his character and rewrite their histories with him, but I already sort of knew all of that just from that unlinked path on Anne/Sky Ryan’s old site.
Goad’s time in prison was the hardest part of this book for me to read, even outstripping his depictions of the abuse he suffered as a child. As someone who loathes the heat, fears germs and disease, his time in prison reads like a page from my own nightmares. I cannot abide pointless noise, and I am not what could be called a people person – the overcrowding with marginal people, people carrying AIDS and Hepatitis C – and I don’t think I could have mentally survived had I physically survived.
I may sound like an apologist for Goad, and this may seem odd because I am a feminist. I am a feminist in the sense that all women deserve equal protection under law. But I haven’t always been like this. I was a young adult during the rise of political correctness and there were about five years where I was completely insufferable with my holier-than-thou-ness. I can recall when the extremely controversial issue 4 of ANSWER Me!, the so-called rape edition, was released and the furor it caused in the feminist and freedom of speech communities and, at the time, I thought censoring him was bad, though I also felt Goad was probably beneath contempt, based on what I heard about him. I didn’t know enough really to have an informed opinion but hive minds can do that to you. You just sort of fall in line with your contemporaries and subject your mental will to theirs.
But as I got older, I changed. What happened? A bunch of stuff. But the most important catalyst was that I was exposed to the stupidity and unthinking rhetoric of the PC movement and saw how dangerous it could be when not tempered by good sense.
I was roommates with a drunk “feminist” who would drink until she blacked out and then would have sex with men and later call it rape, even though the men were often as drunk as she, even though she would flirt outrageously with them beforehand, making it clear sex was on her agenda. She was such a severe drunk she had totaled two cars under the influence and wrecked more than just two lives with her political extremism coupled with her alcoholism. When these sex acts occurred, she never said no, even when drunk, but because she was drunk, she considered it rape. She was indeed drunk, but so were the men she accused of a terrible crime.
But interestingly, when a man I knew was an actual rapist, in the sense that he beat and overpowered a woman and had sex with her as she fought and begged him to stop, was a study partner of hers and she became extremely angry when I told her what I knew of him (he is now a registered sex offender and the woman whom he he assaulted was left with a broken jaw and was covered in bruises – hardly the “rapes” my roommate endured). She called it rumor-mongering when one objected to a real rapist being in the house. It bears mentioning that he was wealthy and very good looking and she had a terrible crush on him. That’s a rule that the extremely politically correct follow: My rules don’t apply to me when I don’t want them to because I am purer than you and ultimately know better than you, even when the evidence points to the contrary.
She also saw “cultural rape” everywhere and could take offense at the slightest thing – I recall her losing her shit over the song “Brick House” and raving about how music like that caused sexual assault. (She was strangely silent about the song “Polly Says” by her favorite band, Nirvana, because when Kurt empathized with a man who raped and murdered a child, it was something more acceptable than when a bunch of men sang about a woman’s beauty and sexual appeal.) In many ways, she was a social terrorist and living with her changed my mind about how I think about a lot of things, but mainly, it crushed my ability to call myself a feminist for many years. She was insane and I did not want to be lumped into any category that included her. I am over it now and call myself a feminist but I am always uneasy that people may think I am somehow like my old roommate, a woman willing to harm people, men especially, to prove an irrational point.
Living with this sort of hypocrisy will do one of two things. It will further entrench unthinking allegiance with sick rhetoric or it will force you to reevaluate what you consider to be certain societal truths. I feel lucky the latter happened to me, and I say this knowing that any hardcore feminist will read this and say that by rejecting certain dogmas, I am in a sense advocating rape and worse. That’s the tyranny of extremism. So it goes.
Everyone’s interpretation of their life has self-serving elements to it, and Goad’s is no exception, but his version of his life rings truer to me than that of his detractors. I also realize my belief is heavily tempered with my sympathy for the devil, but there you go. Goad’s writing style appeals to me, and his sentence structure throughout the book gives a sort of immediacy to his prose. As one reads, one feels as if one is hearing a man speaking his thoughts, in a sort of stream of consciousness, except unlike most SOC accounts, his thoughts make linear as well as overall sense.
Also, there is a touching sadness to this book. Goad laid himself bare in this book and as a reader, I appreciated his candor. To be so honest is not easy, especially when such honesty may not reflect well on you. Overall, I found this to be a fascinating book.