reviewed by Tom Hartman

Published in Issue No. 52 ~ September, 2001

For many a twenty-something guy, spending three weeks as the
researcher at Hustler magazine (where your duties include sorting
reader-submitted cheesecake shots, fact-checking cover model bios and
procuring copies of competing magazines for the boss) might just be
the temp-job equivalent of nirvana. For a woman, however, as Margaret
Gray tells us in her memoir, “My Three Weeks in Porno,” a stint in
Larry Flynt Land means battling a host of conflicting emotions: Here’s
a brief excerpt:


“Hi!” I say. “I’m calling from the Research Department at Hustler
magazine. You submitted some photos to our ‘amateur photo

“Oh, right.” The girl sounds tired. Somewhere behind her, a dog barks,
a child screams.

When her Polaroids arrived this morning, in a small envelope
embroidered with ballpoint injunctions not to bend, I taped them to
one of my photocopied “Beaver Hunt” forms. In the top shot, a blonde
lies on a tan sofa wearing bright red spike heels and a dazed smile.
Pretty girl, I think maternally. I was pleased when the editor chose
her from the stack. No gimmicks-no American flag swathing her belly,
or stuffed animal propped up somewhere startling on her anatomy. Just
the dingy paisley sofa and the red heels, a hint of shag carpeting in
the top left. Once I got past the surprise of witnessing the naked,
splayed bodies of America’s girls next door – it’s really a lot easier
than you’d think – I became most interested in these Polaroids as an
homage to the American living room. So resolutely, un-redecoratedly

Gray’s piece is just one example of the quality prose readers will
find in Tragos, a Left Coast zine ably curated by Gadi Dechter.
Published irregularly, Tragos also contains fiction, photography,
music and miscellany. The current issue looks at unemployment, the
condition, Dechter says in his editor’s note, that served as the
catalyst for Tragos‘ creation: “we are all unemployed, he writes, “or
we’d like to be.” Following Gray’s essay, be sure and read John
Bernard’s “Return of the Slacker,” which among other things describes
the role of films by Cameron Crowe, Richard Linklater and other
directors in creating the “cult of idle,” which Bernard says is now
enjoying a resurgence.

If Dechter and company do get day jobs, let’s hope they’re still able
to spin out more issues of this smart, entertaining zine in their
spare time.

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Tom Hartman has been a regular contributor to Pif since 1999. He lives in Philadelphia.