Animal Rights & Pornography Stories by J. Eric Miller
If the title of this book suggests to you a series of essays with a clear moral or other sound ponderings which will move you to make some activist stand, youíre mistaken.
It is, however, a book that will return you to the days of hiding under the covers, flashlight in hand, reading things you ought not to. Only this time, you wish your mother would walk in & catch you, so you would stop. Sheís right, this stuff will give you nightmares.
With taboo topics such as incest, rape & slaughter, youíll feel that if anyone were to see you reading this material, youíd deserve nothing less than a spanking & a weekend grounded to your room. And the grounding would be the worst part ~ This book makes you wish you were in a place full of people & distractions so you would have an easy way to avoid the images & feelings in your head. Then again, it may make you wonder about all the people around you, and what stories they could tell. Maybe youíre better off at home, alone, after all...
If this sounds like I hated the book, think again.
The first story is 'Food Chain.' Two pages & one sentence (due to the title at the top of the first page, itís even less) regarding incest, it packs a disturbing wallop. And it leaves a bitter aftertaste. Two paragraphs outline the family pecking order ~ mom wonít do dad, so dad does daughter, oldest son does the daughter too, then dad does the oldest son to claim what is his, but when these 2 are too old, he goes down the line etc etc. etc. Normally not the sort of thing one reads. But since the whole family dynamic is presented briefly, more matter-of-fact than a psychiatric study, you flee over those paragraphs wondering where it will lead.
You are not a voyeur, you are not enjoying it. You are struck by the starkness. By the bold frankness. You read until your eyes leave the bottom of page 2 and you realize there is one sentence left. Just one. How can one sentence end it all? But it is the end, even if it doesnít end it all.
These short stories often lead to one horrific moment, which would normally be the moment of the lead characterís epiphany, with a gentle coast to Ďthe point.í But not here. There are no TV 30 minute resolutions, no Dr Phil closure moments, and most of the time, there isnít even a resting point. In fact, most of these stories seem, on the surface, to start & stop in the wrong place. You even start to wonder if in the last story, there will be some culmination, some final connecting of the characters, or a bridging of all the previous stories to make one cohesive point. But there isnít.
With the lack of typical story construction of beginning, middle & end, you are forced to deal with the thoughts that Millerís vignettes evoke. Forget Disney. Forget those after school specials. Now youíll really have to think about what darkness exists in the bland people around you. If you now have a great uneasiness with people & our culture, just think of what happens when you start to focus on what youíre thinking... Even just saying you enjoyed the book makes you feel a bit ashamed.
If the author intended to put sexuality, relationships, human & other animal rights ~ our very society itself ~ on trial, then the readers themselves become judge, jury & defendant.
When I told my partner the titles & topics in this book, read him some passages, he suggested this book was for shock value. When I tried to defend the works as much more than that, he held himself in place, yet I could feel him turn away internally. Maybe I was supposed to have done that, internally turn away & close the book. But I didnít. Instead I read it, & Iíll defend it.
'Animal Rights & Pornography' isnít some Howard Stern Shock-Jock presentation in text. If it was for shock value things would be different. For example, in ĎFood Chainí the details of & the feelings created by the incestuous acts would be laid before you like some horrific feast. Instead the reader is given a barren presentation of stark situations; people & events stripped bare & placed under the non-forgiving florescent lights in a swimsuit fitting room. Shocking? Perhaps. Unflattering? Yes. But nothing is exaggerated or overly dramatized.
Itís reality after all.
Hopefully, itís not your reality.
Review by Gracie.