Gun Fag Manifesto, edited by Hollister Kopp

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book:  Gun Fag Manifesto

Author:  Edited by Hollister Kopp, foreword by Jim Goad

Type of Book:  Non-fiction, ‘zines

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because it made me remember with fondness the old Loompanics Catalogue.

Availability:  Published by Nine Banded Books in 2013, you can get a copy here:

Comments: So, I read this a long time ago and somehow forgot to discuss it, which is a shame because I found it to be a funny and at times uncomfortable blast from the past.  I never read this ‘zine in its original format so this was entirely new to me even as it reminded me of the more humorous excesses of the old Loompanics catalogue and a bit of Paladin Press’ more gunnish releases.  God, I really miss the old days sometimes, wherein if you wanted to obtain and read really fucked up books you had to peruse a paper list of books that got mailed to your house and really alarmed postal officials.  I mean, I don’t miss it over much because it’s nice to hear about a book and be able to buy it immediately but sometimes I realize half the people reading here have only ever ordered outre books online and don’t remember the heady thrill of renting a post office box at a mail drop and ordering books that Focus on the Family insisted were occult and Satanic and also evil.  (Remind me to tell you all my “James Dobson mistook me for someone else and touched my arm twitch” story some day.)

Back to the book.  1994.  What a time for all of us who were alive! I graduated from college and started dating Mr Oddbooks.  OJ Simpson captivated us all as he engaged in a low speed chase in that white Ford Bronco.  Nancy Kerrigan got hit in the knee.  And Hollister Kopp edited this ‘zine.  This is a messed up ‘zine – completely politically incorrect, verging into outright sociopathy, and, in its own bizarre way, it is glorious.

Don’t get me wrong.  You all know that I am so liberal I should probably go straight to jail for stealing all your tax money to give to lesbian welfare crack babies.  I don’t get into racist propaganda and racial epithets make me nervous because I’m not wholly sure what my own ethnic background contains and what I do know is Irish and that’s almost never a good sign amongst Americans.  But I am also a pro-2A liberal.  We are rare, like white tigers, but unlike unicorns we really do exist.  I’m not a gun fag, like the editor of the ‘zine. And I really don’t miss the days when Mr Oddbooks would drag me to gun shows and I would end up listening to John Birchers explain to me why it is that blacks and women should never have been permitted to vote and that things went straight to hell after we started putting fluoride in the water, but there is something refreshing reading something so utterly unimpressed by basically everything that makes me who I am.

As we all know, Internet killed the Xerox-zine star.  I know the world seems really nuts because we have access to so much insanity online, but back in the old days you had to seek it out and when you found it you were less inclined to complain about it.  Were these zines online, the comments would have to be disabled.  I think part of the refreshing element of reading this zine compilation was the realization that I would not be expected, culturally, to engage in an argument when I was finished.  That having been said, this is an extremely hyperbolic collection.  A lot of really offensive content got crammed into three editions, and if you can’t embrace the weird when it is offensive, you will want to give this book and the rest of my discussion a miss. 

Jim Goad’s Gigantic Book of Sex

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Jim Goad’s Gigantic Book of Sex

Author: Jim Goad

Type of Book: Non-fiction, parody, humor, human sexuality

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: There are some writers whose body of work points towards odd, even if they occasionally produce work that would appeal to the average reader. Jim Goad is one of those authors.

Availability: Published in 2007 by Feral House, you can get a copy here:

Comments: This discussion is the stretching I need to do before I attempt the marathon that will be my discussion of the compilation of Jim Goad’s Answer Me!, plus a pdf of the infamous “Rape Issue,” which Goad was kind enough to send me. And it will be a pleasant stretch because I found this collection of Goad’s articles over the years to be interesting, amusing and at times, strangely touching. It’s always a good trip when someone invites you into his or her id, albeit sprinkled with mini hoaxes along the way.

There is no way to discuss all of these articles covering almost every aspect of human sexuality unless I really abused the good nature of every person who reads here, which means there is a chance I will not discuss your favorite article and you will think me an asshole. I’m just discussing the ones that stood out for me in some manner or other. Sorry about that, but please be sure to share your perspectives in the comments.

Goad, because he is a man largely misunderstood by liberal audiences and one of those writers about whom people form opinions without ever reading a word he has written, stands in a unique spot. He’s a scoundrel to some and as a result, everything he writes is seen as a real attempt to harm. But he’s also such a good writer that if one does not know who he is, he can make a simple person think that children direct porn and that pugs survive gang bangs. Part of me wants to call such people idiots but I can’t because I personally know folks who were certain Bonsai Kitty was for real and they aren’t completely without merit. But it is a unique place for Goad to occupy – a man seen as a monster by some extreme feminists who can still plug into moral outrage and provoke panic in even the most over-the-top articles. It’s a talent, to be sure. Believe me, there have been times I would love to fuck with people’s minds but I lack the dedication. Or the talent.

On the cover of this compilation, Goad separates this book into “Fake,” “Real,” “Opinion” and “Personal” and I will just follow that handy separation as I discuss the articles that stood out the most for me.

The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies, Hicks, and White Trash Became America’s Scapegoats

Author: Jim Goad

Type of Book: Non-fiction, Sociology

Why I Consider This Book Odd: Truly, this may not be a wholly odd book. But Goad himself, while not full-bore odd, is in my little odd book, and since I reviewed his book Shit Magnet on this site, I figured I should keep all my Goad reviews together. Also, since I plan to give my two cents on the ANSWER Me! collection over here, and that is a decidedly odd experience, it seems like a good plan to keep my Goad grouped. In other words, my site, my flexible criteria.

Availability: Published in 1998, Simon & Schuster still have it in print. You can get a copy here:

Comments: This is a verbose and highly personal reaction to a book. Don’t send me any e-mails complaining TL;DR. If reading long-form is not your thing, just save yourself some time and hie yourself on over to Twitter and find out what someone ate for breakfast or what they think of the newest electronic whatever, okay?

I read this book a while back and reread it recently. Damnation, did it make me think hard this go around. I initially read it because I walk an uneasy line between two worlds and wanted a take on being white trash that did not demonize it. I got a college education, I seem sort of middle class, but the fact is, deep in my heart, I am still the little white trash girl I was when I was born. My daddy was poor white trash, and mean with it, a Coors-clutching racist who genuinely thought black welfare queens were the reason he could not get ahead in life.

My mama was poor white (though not trash, certainly nuts and willing to put up with a mean, mean man for many, many years), and though we lived in the suburbs of Dallas in a relatively affluent area, I was always acutely aware I was the other. The crappy rental house where I dealt with bad plumbing, crumbling walls, roaches and even on a few occasions, rats, still haunts me to this day and is likely one of the reasons I am a clean freak. My clothes were not up to snuff until I started working and getting my own money to buy them. My hygiene, while not bad, was not as aggressive as my squeaky clean counterparts in elementary school and I recall a nurse calling me dirty one day. Other kids heard it, and she only said things like that to the black kids and the trash kids like me. I bathed twice a day from that comment on, but was still on occasion teased for my greasy haired past. The resonance of being less than middle class is still with me. I had to work hard to appear normalish and developed a knee-jerk, extreme left-wing persona to cover up my trashy roots. I spoke of white privilege as if I had been a recipient of uninterrupted societal largesse from the day I was born and it should be noted that the people who espoused that line of thinking were invariably white age peers who had enjoyed far nicer upbringings than mine.

I cringe when I think about my childhood. I cringe thinking about my father. Being white trash and super-intelligent resulted in someone who became crazy and mean, a loser at the end of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The taint of his shame clung to me like the odor of a rotting soul. I overcompensated. A lot. Pretentious and tiresome. I may cringe when I think about him but I also cringe when I think about who I was until about age 25.

I can also tell you, in my own dogpatch way, that I been white trash and I been middle class. Middle class is better. But you can be both at the same time, and it would appear that I am. (I also note that Obama created a Commission on the Middle Class, or some such shit. Don’t you be fooled, you tenuous middle class. If anyone needs a commission to understand why it’s so hard to be middle class, they’re a moron. As Mr. Oddbook said, if Obama looked to the left, then to the right at every Cabinet meeting, he’d know why being middle class is so damned hard in this country.)

I had just finished rereading The Redneck Manifesto this month when I followed it with a book called Pearl by the author Mary Gordon. I have another site where I review “norm” books and I wrote about it in excruciating depth over there, but the fact is, I was shocked that a Barnard professor and such an acclaimed writer could produce such mind-numbing drek (because, you know, people the critics love never, ever, never turn out crap). Then I followed Pearl with Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan and I loved it. It was not until I thought of Goad’s book again after I reviewed Pearl that I understood some of the reasons for my tastes and distastes.

In Pearl, no one works, or if they do, it is the sort of work that does not bear mentioning in any detail. The characters are rich, highly educated. These are the sorts of people who can afford to send a daughter to Ireland for a year so she can study language without thinking twice about cost. They travel. And when they worry, they worry about how they missed their calling in life, not whether or not they can pay the bills. Pearl, a young girl, decides to starve herself to death over the “will to harm.” She never missed a meal until that point in her life. Nor had she a job, if I remember correctly.

Last Night at the Lobster is a working class novel. Everyone is working. Busting ass. Worrying over tips. Doing hard work for too little money, but for the most part doing it well. The manager of a closing Red Lobster, named Manny, agonizes over who to take with him when the restaurant is closed by the head office and only five people can go to the Olive Garden. He does not want anyone, even his worst employee, to lose his or her job.

Pearl was not written for someone like me, and it was sort of a shock to realize that. Yeah, I got an education and have a veneer of the middle class about me, but the book alienated me. The privileged world of her characters was nothing but a high-minded moral struggle, playing out choices no one without a trust fund would ever have to worry about. I have no idea what Gordon’s background is, but her books are not for the likes of me, a girl who has been a maid, worked retail, waiting on people and literally cleaning up their shit. All the moral dithering. Who has that kind of time in the real world (and yes, as a person who runs two review sites where I pontificate over books, I sort of see the hilarity in that statement)?

Last Night at the Lobster reminded me of the camaraderie I have felt at my scraping-by jobs. People may look at my husband and me and think we are middle class but we are hanging by a thread, like everyone else in the middle class, it seems. As I recently learned, I could go from white collar to blue in a heart beat. I related to the work, to the need to do the job well even when the rewards were so minimal. I understood Manny. I got it.

Pearl was like a lecture on high-brow literary theory. Lobster was like a letter from an old friend.

And I remembered, no matter what, you get raised white trash, you stay that way. And it doesn’t matter how many “good” jobs I have had or how much money my husband makes. My sympathies will always be with people who work and people for whom life has not been a monied cake walk. It took me a long time to understand this, that my world does not break down the way the world does for a rich, white woman. Class means more to me than race, and frankly, the only reason I can say this is because I am, indeed, white. Being poor and Hispanic or black is not something I can discuss nor should I even try because being white has advantages and I have no business speaking for anyone else. No one sane will deny that being white in the USA carries privilege. All I am talking about here is my own life, my own reaction, and how class made me feel inferior and as if I had to hide, lie and act my way into a way of life that promised advancement even though the color of my skin made it seem as if such struggles were not anything I would have to worry about.

There’s a lot to Goad’s book and I hope the historical and social punch in the face it offers does not get lost in my reaction. While there is likely no one on the planet who agrees with everything Goad says, myself included, I agreed with far more of what he had to say this go around than when I first read the book. The book is interestingly researched, with source cites that run from Edward Abbey to Howard Zinn. The first third reads as an alternative history lesson, one that made perfect sense when I read it, but the implications of which probably didn’t stay with me when I initially learned it because extreme leftism embraces a notion of continuous, uninterrupted white privilege that is heresy to deny. The middle third was a look at the contemporary mores of the working class/white trash culture and the last third was a sociological look at how, in America where we all wanna be rich or die trying, no one seems to get the fact that we at the bottom benefit the powers that keep us here each time we snap at each other’s neck.

Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability to Absorb the World’s Guilt by Jim Goad

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

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.