Jim Goad's Shit Magnet: Review and analysis, part one

I'm sorry. I told myself I would update this blog on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but I missed my deadline by 15 minutes. I wanted to grade papers before I got online, and it took me a bit longer. I AM sorry. Hope you enjoy this post.


Depending on your viewpoint, Jim Goad is an amazing writer with an eventful life, or he's a mean, hateful man. I have to thank Jim and Debbie Goad as influencing my 'zine “Angry Young Woman.”
I knew I wanted to write something edgy, but wasn't sure where to begin. Then I picked up “Answer Me!” number three and I knew. I could write about whatever the hell I wanted. That's what Jim and Debbie did. They wrote about suicides. They wrote about handicapped kids who made their own music. They wrote about Suzanne Muldowney, a performance artist. And lots more stuff. Timothy Leary. Russ Meyer. And in earlier issues, they wrote about serial killers and mass murderers. They talked to Anton LaVey. They wrote about their visit to Bakersfield on the Fourth of July. It was well written, funny and interesting. I eventually ended up with two copies of “Answer Me! The First Three” (both falling apart because I read them so much) and a battered (hah!) issue of “Answer Me! Number four, also known as the “rape” issue.

So when I was browsing Hyde Brothers Books a few weeks ago, I saw Shit Magnet: One Man's Miraculous Ability to Absorb the World's Guilt and picked it up. Again, it's fascinating, horrifying reading. It chronicles Jim's childhood in Philly, when he met Debbie, the “Answer Me!” years, the Francisco Martin Duran flap and the three British youngsters who came to America and killed themselves. Seems that a sentence fragment from one of the issues showed up in the vehicle owned by Duran, and one of the British kids had called Goad to verify his mailing address. She mailed him money. He mailed it back to her parents.

Then, there's the chapter where he talks about his relationship with Anne “Sky” Ryan. The only time I'd seen Goad written about was in an issue of Spin magazine in 1998. I picked it up and read what was going on with him. By that time I was still 'zineing', but it seemed like the era was passing, or at least on its way out. I sort of lost touch with what was going on in the 'zine world, but I still have that issue of Spin. I exchanged a couple of letters with Debbie, who wrote an article for my 'zine, and I know I got at least one letter from Jim. Debbie said she skipped an episode of “Seinfeld” in order to read my 'zine, and I felt honored. A lot of people feared them, but I didn't. I felt I would like them, because they had a lot of the same complaints about people that I did.

I immediately dove into Shit Magnet. I love when I pick up a book and it sucks me in. I hate when I pick up a book and it bores me, or just doesn't hold my attention. I guess it makes a difference if you're already familiar with the author's writing style, and you've exchanged a letter with them. But I got sucked into it. And the chapters about Anne, and Angels with Black Eyes probably fascinated me the most.

Jim didn't have great parents. So that probably set the tone for his future relationships and his sense of right and wrong. Anne sends him a copy of her 'zine, and he sends her a flyer, telling her he can pick one item and he'll send it to her for free. Then, they exhange numbers. Then, they meet. And Jim knows that once he crosses the bridge heading for downtown Portland, he's crossed the line. He and Anne engage in a lot of fucking, laughing, and even more fucking and laughing. They declare themselves “Portland's Hottest Young Couple.” Within a few months, Debbie will be diagnosed with overian cancer. Anne, 15 years younger than Jim, makes him feel alive. She makes him laugh. Life with Debbie has deteriorated. Jim knows what he's doing is wrong, yet night after night, he tells Debbie he's going for “rides” but he's seeing Anne.

Anne quickly becomes obsessed with Jim, and things get worse. He leaves, but comes back to her. He leaves, but comes back to both Anne AND Debbie. And when he tries to leave, Anne hits him. And hits him some more. Jim says he was attacked several times, until he actually beat up Anne while they were up in the mountains somewhere. And the trouble just gets worse.


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