I know. I know! Yes, I just read one of the early works of that Chuck Tingle, the popular author behind esteemed classics Gay T-Rex Law Firm Executive Boner, Pounded By The Pound: Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications of Britain Leaving the European Union, and the unforgettable Pokebutt Go: Pounded By ‘Em All. And here he is, in an old issue of Glimmer Train. He’s gotta pay the bills somehow, I suppose. I’ve never read any of Tingle’s books before. They seemed like novelty items. But I can tell you, straight away, that this Glimmer Train submission is his finest work. Why? Well, it got published in Glimmer Train, of course! No, but beyond that: this story’s exquisite mastery of metaphor reveals how much wisdom a writer can convey in such elegant and (dare I say it?) tight prose.
What’s the plot? Well, as I’ve said many times before, Glimmer Train’s not really about plot. I’d best summarize “Ghostly Seduction” as ‘a postmodern story about writing a postmodern story about a character raped by a ghost.’ Lots of levels going in, which implies that the reader should think carefully about what’s real and what’s just a manifestation of the protagonist’s psyche.
Our narrator (unnamed) attempts to write a ghost sex story. But he keeps questioning his choice in literary devices. “I can’t put a semicolon there; Kelly Anne hated those. I would occasionally discuss semicolons during pillow talk with her. Whenever I did, I could see her eyes fade, drifting away from me. Kelly Anne hated semicolons, yet they’re the only memories of her I can bear,” (Tingle, 169) for example. Every aspect of fiction writing becomes a reflection of the narrator’s life. It’s meta-fiction as self-doubt. Tingle’s still in his wheelhouse, as it were, but now he’s talking about loss and time and language and such, which instantly elevates the narrative above your usual fanfics findings. Forget plot, it’s theme that drives this story, as it did with “Keller’s Ranch.” No device goes unexamined. Every plot hole in the ghost story is stuffed with long flashbacks to the narrator’s life, hard choices he has to make, and uncircumcised explorations into what makes the literary devices tick.
This whole ghost sex meditation reminds me of my current read: Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov.
Ok, two things: Tingle’s story also reminds me of that one weird scene from “Ghostbusters.” But both Pale Fire and “Ghostly Seduction” explore how much writing reflects— and disguises— the persona behind it. It’s fascinating stuff. Mr. Tingle, you have found my niche.
Some of you may have noticed that I describe this story’s content as both “ghost sex” and “ghost rape.” How can this be? This is my one major complaint with “Ghostly Seduction,” and with society as a whole now that I think about it. The rules for ghost consent aren’t clear. How can you read the body language of a non-corporeal being? Can someone touch you inappropriately if his hand just goes straight through you? For someone that progressives seem to like, this is just sloppy, second-hand craftsmanship on Tingle’s part. It’s inexcusable. I know the ghost rape isn’t really happening— like I said, layers underneath layers. It just makes me uncomfortable. With all the progress made by feminism in the first half of the 2010s, I’m worried that it’ll be all for not if the movement can’t inform a reading about double ghost anal penetration. Forget women achieving positions of power or navigating nuanced, real social issues; I want the type of feminism that addresses pop culture trivia! That’s the heroism that makes me type, “You go gurl/boi/n0nbinari! #girlpower” on Twitter. Twitter has the makings of a great feminist omelet, we just have to break a few eggs first.*
But let’s go back to serious, important matters. After all, this is a serious story, because it’s in a magazine. I would have never said the upcoming words yesterday. But, after seeing one of his stories in the prestigious Glimmer Train magazine, I now accept Chuck Tingle as a truly great writer. I hope he learns from his past self and gets serious about his dinosaur slash-fiction. “Ghostly Seduction” may have well convinced me to read his other works. Yet again, maybe not. Why would anyone want to read text that’s just repeating the same joke from the title over and over and over again?
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