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The Rag, Issue 5: Winter/Spring 2013

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  86 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
What defines an action as good or evil? What drives a person to act immorally? These are some of the questions underlying the selections in our 5th issue.


"Memento Mori" by Stefanie Demas
"No Sleep Since 1903" by Nick Mecikalski (poetry)
"Monolith" by Petros Karagianis (poetry)
"Yes, Officer" by John Woods
"Not Giving to the Alumni Fund" by David Blanton
"Putting in the
Kindle Edition, 202 pages
Published January 27th 2013 by The Rag Literary Magazine
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Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great collection of well written short stories about misfits and losers, cheaters, wife beaters, credit card scammers, murderers, and even one philosophical necrophiliac.

There is some really, really good stuff here. I look forward to reading more stories, and hopefully even novels from these writers in the future.

This edition also includes a few poems and some absolutely beautiful artwork by Meredith Robinson.
Check out her stuff here:
Ryan Milbrath
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
In The Rag’s fifth release, Seth Porter and Dan Reilly have published eighteen stories and poems that explore the theme of moral ambiguity. The strongest stories of the eighteen are linked in their characters’ justification/rationalization of immoral or abnormal acts. Even the artwork of the issue, which details human bodies with the faces of various predatory animals such as foxes, wolves and cougars, suggests this theme of average humans contending with the beast within.

The stand-out stories
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Like all indie publications, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly. This edition of the "The Rag" is no different. That being said, I feel there is more good in this edition than there is ugly or bad.

Plus, it is always fun to read aspiring authors. This lot of authors show promise. For the most part, the writing is crisp and clean; sometimes cliche but that is bound to happen.

This collection concentrates on what drives a person to be immoral. An excellent question, methinks. Through stories
Please note that goodreads users inflate their scores. A 3 on here is "liked it" and for me that means something that is worth reading and returning to for odds and ends. This represents a relatively high bar for me.

The Rag's fifth issue captures some truly original storytelling in addition to a few servings of standard "gritty" fiction fare.

The absolute best piece in the issue is "Zeke Stargazing" by Rachel Kimbaugh. Funny, horrid, touching and grim all at the same time.

The absolute worst piece
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I’ve read short story collections before and there are always some stories you really love, and some you don’t get or perhaps you can’t really connect to. But so far they have always been by one and the same author.
So this is the first time I’m jumping from one author to the next and that’s been a much harder experience. I guess some people will like this continuous changing of tone, but reading this magazine, I discovered I prefer to dive into one author’s world of stories before moving on, so
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Rag: Winter/Spring 2013 edited by Seth Porter is an independent literary publication. The magazine contains poetry and prose by mostly unpublished writers as well as some artwork. With this established, I am reviewing The Rag for what it is and not holding the short story writers to Hemingway for comparison. Magazines like The Rag are the places that future great writers first get noticed. These are writers trying to make a name for themselves; few will be great and the majority good.

Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One beauty about reading is how it can let you experience other worlds vicariously. But it is easy to transport yourself to a world of fantasy or adventure. Discovering what lies beneath the dark choices made by everyday people is much more compelling. For example, what does a cop go through when he contemplates shooting an abusive husband? What drives the desires of a necrophiliac? How does a college graduate end up a fraudster? How is a hitman born?

Such stories strip away any social judgment a
Jason Pettus
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My arts center, CCLaP, does not actually review literary magazines, which is why today's review isn't coming with the typical disclaimer; but I was specifically asked by the journal's creators if I might read it and share some thoughts here, which I was glad to do. And the good news is that this is a much different and better thing than the typical "Paris Review" style academic story and poetry journal, the thousands of which that now exist seeming to all blend into one messy mediocre blob in my ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I don't read too many literary magazines. It isn't because I don't like them. I usually do. It's just that they are not readily available, although the increasing appearance of Ezines may be changing that. If more people read literary magazines instead of People and Us the world would be a better place. Editor Seth Porter sent me a copy of his Ezine, The Rag and I'm glad he did. What I like about literary magazines is that it gives the reader a chance to read the type of poetry and prose that ne ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
When is a magazine not a magazine? When it's on my iPad, and I'm on the go? Nah, that's not it. I just don't really do magazines. I think of them as such trite as People and Us and I could give a shit what Kim Kardashian is doing. But I do read Lit Journals, because I like good writing, but I seldom carry one around. I got too much stuff in my bag, and then here's my iPad and I'm rolling across LA as a bored passenger and I'm thinking, "you've got issue 5 of The Rag, read the damn thing, man." S ...more
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
A wonderful collection of short stories, poetry and artwork gathered together from new and up and coming artists throughout the United States as well as overseas, and released to the world as a digital zine.

I really love indie presses and was honored to be given a chance to read this one. All the stories were a little left of right, which I totally dug, and if I had to choose a favorite, I'd have to pick Zeke Stargazing By: Rachel Kimbrough which is about a brother and sister who want to give t
Parrish Lantern
I’ve had a small presence on Goodreads for a few years now, and once in a while a writer will ask me if I would like to read/review their work. For the most part I politely decline, not due to any fault of the writer but merely because my particular taste in literature hasn’t coincided with the writer’s subject matter. Occasionally though I get a request that I’m happy to oblige - change that – I’m enthusiastically willing to rip their arm off and grab what’s on offer. Recently I got such a requ ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it

The Winter/Spring 2013 edition of The Rag, an electronic literary magazine, has a pretty consistent collection of short stories. I have never read an independent literary magazine before and so I was quite surprised by the standard of the writing which was consistently above average.

I don't know if there is a common theme that unites all these short stories. The description on Goodreads says: "What defines an action as good or evil? What drives a person to act immo
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Firstly, let me say that I hadn't heard much about this until the wonderful Dan Reilly of sent me a message, asking me to review it.

I was intrigued not, only by the cover art, but by the fact that I'm apparently famous, or noteworthy enough to start getting requests. Next thing you'll now, I'll be handing out the Best Actress Award to Justin Beiber at next year's Academy Awards.

I'd like to take a moment to talk about the cover art, before I throw myself into the review. Well, it's
Leo Robertson
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
The first I read.

Did I like it? Yes.
Would I read it again? Yes.

Some good stories in it:

- Memento Mori by Stefanie Demas- Murakami-esque necrophilia (!!)
- Not Giving to the Alumni Fund by David Blanton- The seductive life of crime for Halo fanboys
- The Girl with Pretension in Her Hair by Bill Lytton- London people watching (and judging and hating)

And per author, there are not hugely noticeable changes in the style- that’s a good thing I think, the stories are well-curated and the magazine has a c
Michael Cunningham
Jul 02, 2013 rated it liked it
A few weeks ago I was asked if I would review the 5th edition of an electronic literary magazine called ‘The Rag’ – a fairly recent publication that is committed to revitalising the olden days of publishing when great authors gained exposure (and got paid) through writing short stories for such magazines. Being a writer myself I accepted the review request simply out of a curiosity to what calibre of writing was contained within its pages. The rising tidal wave of electronic books and indie self ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
So, this is my first "request for review". I did like the magazine overall, but need a few caveats. First, I am not a short story gal (as evidenced by my reviews for short story collections). I tend to avoid lit mags because I do not prefer short literature. I am also not really a poetry gal. I am left with a 3 star rating on this; there were a few stories that were clearly a 1 or 2 star, but there was a 5 star story and a couple that were deserving of a 4 I had to just average the iss ...more
Mark Johnson
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Rag is an e-zine, delivered in .pdf, .epub and .mobi formats, which issues a biannual collection of short fiction, poetry, and original illustrative art. In their statement of intent, the magazine’s editors and founders express their desire to emulate - in cyberspace - the little literary magazines that were so common in the 1920s and 1930s. I earnestly and devoutly wish them unequivocal and resounding success in their project.
The production values are very high, and the layout and graphics
Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it
The Rag is an online magazine published independently and operates with the mission of hoping “ to be on the front line of a new vanguard of electronic literary magazines with the means and the will to seek out and then support fresh voices” and focuses on material that “tends to fall on the grittier, transgressive side”. This edition features original prose, poetry and artwork. The editing and layout are pleasing and the finished product is first rate. Most endearing to me was the selection of ...more
Sam Moss
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, mag-journal
Briefly: The fifth issue of an online magazine that features pieces ranging from run of the mill pulp to skillful high Transgressive lit. Primarily longer prose supported by high quality visual art. Not pricy and they pay their writers. Highlights include: David Blanton’s ‘Not Giving to the Alumni Fund’, Matthew Mead’s ‘The Observer Effect’, Reina Hardy’s ‘Citizen of the Megabus’, Rachel Kimbrough’s ‘Zeke Stargazing’, Marcus Emanuel’s ‘Vibrancy’, Philip Zigman’s ‘Olivia’. Buy it, , sift through ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Creating a short story collection is like a mix tape. You strive for certain themes that kind of segue into the next song to create a cohesive whole of meaning. The Rag Issue 5 is a very well done compilation exploring a broad spectrum of social alienation. These are character sketches of people who could be anyone we know, who secretly do not fit in the world we share.

The stories gradually rise from examples of moral ambiguity to full blown immersion of acknowledged legal and moral transgressio
David Stephens
Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: magazines
In the opening story of The Rag's Winter/Spring 2013 offering, the protagonist explains and attempts to justify her growing obsession with death, and more specifically, corpses. And her rationalizations actually do make some notable points about the typical revulsion expressed over a process as natural as birth and sex even though she eventually takes things too far. More importantly, though, it exhibits the kind of rationalizations that recur throughout many of the stories. Characters often jus ...more
Chance Lee
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: magazines
The Rag is a digital magazine of short fiction (and poetry, but I don't read poetry) that is a pleasure to read. It's professionally put together, and the artwork is top notch. Even on my black and white kindle screen, the art stands out. Each piece is an unsettling mix of the mundane and the bizarre, which could also describe practically any story in this collection.

But if you were into something attractive and pleasantly put together, you'd be into architecture. This is a fiction magazine. How
Travis Roberson
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Over the past five years I've become rather acquainted with the world of small press. With the advent of the internet, the small press has become an interesting place. It's gained the ability to expose the entire world to writers no one else would otherwise notice. If anything, smaller publications-- especially digital ones-- have enriched the literary world, exposing a whole new realm of brilliant writers and giving these writers the chance to blossom and grow.

Since I was 16 I've had various wo
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I found this to be a quite enjoyable collection of contemporary short fiction and poetry. My enthusiasm ebbed and flowed, as is normal, but the issue closed on a good note, with a fantastic and disquieting short story of considerable merit. I was expecting (from the macabre and eerie artwork) a somewhat rougher and more disturbing level of content, but, to be honest, there was nothing so objectionable in this magazine that the general public would really lose their heads if they read it. Still, ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
“The Rag” is a short story and poetry magazine whose contents veer towards the gritty side of literary fiction. Several of the pieces here are a mix of messed-up relationships, drug deals, guns and violence. Characterisation lies at the core of these stories, so much so that our involvement in their lives sometimes makes the denouement not quite ring true, as in “The Observer Effect” by Matthew Meade, where the ending seems overly dramatic and a little clichéd considering the emotional investmen ...more
Ian Russell
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Short stories, generally, are delicious. You can dip in, play around, indulge at whim, revisit with ease. And they can be profound; the best are pure genius.

The Rag is a lovingly curated platform for contemporary writers of particular genre of shorts; Here in this edition is noir, taboo, outsider fiction. Throughout, there's a youthful, fresh edge; unselfconscious. At times, adventurous, experimental, at others, imitative yet expanding.

From the first, Memento Mori, a regaling of cadaver misappro
Jun 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Every piece has the same empty, disaffected tone, a young generation of writers begging us to listen to their whining and hoping we believe they offer a critique of society that is on par with those of Easton Ellis (while not even reaching the heights of the best Palahniuk). The pieces all seem to celebrate their own meaningless lives while exhibiting hate for them. Wealthy, elite, east-coast, over-educated (though dumb), hipsters (numerous pieces feature BMWs and PBR) spewing meaningless bullsh ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
A collection of mostly crime stories, with a couple poems and a couple stories of a less-definable downbeat nature here. But definitely a lot of crime stories, mostly folks on the low end of the criminal enterprise, otherwise (maybe) decent people who've got themselves into trouble. So in David Blanton's arch "Not Giving to the Alumni Fund," an otherwise good guy finds himself buying electronics with fake credit cards so an acquaintance can fence them, giving the narrator a kickback that he won' ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall, not bad. Not great either, but I didn't feel like I wasted my time. Like most artistic ventures, tastes will vary with the individual. For me, the subject matter lived up to the advertisement of being on the grittier side of life. That never bothers me. I won't even bother saying anything positive or negative about the poetry, because that's just not my thing. Every time I read a modern poem, I can't get into them. I'm always struck by how hard each author seems to be trying to cram in ...more
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