Issue 6 : Shame

Roisin Agnew | Editor's Foreword

My favourite part of actor training was mask work. I’m not sure I fully understood how a mask could turn into a megaphone of expression by covering a person’s face, but some part of it was perfectly comprehensible to me the moment I encountered it.

The masks used are those plain white ones that sometimes appear in horror movies probably because of their eerie lack of human expression. Part of the reason I loved the class was because it was taught by a delicate gentleman called Jason who played the bodhran for us to warm up to and danced beautifully around the studio barefoot in spite of his prodigious corpulence.

He told us a story about how the young male lead on a film he was working on had put on the mask and frozen in his tracks. “I couldn’t do it. I felt shame.” The anecdote was supposed to illustrate the mask’s way of bringing emotions to the surface under the guise of hiding them. “And isn’t shame just the worst thing to experience in life,” he concluded. I nodded assent as I believed every single thing Jason said, I adored him, little thinking what that sentence might mean to a single overweight homosexual man in his fifties.

Society is defined by what it calls shameful. When I think of society in that quotation-marks-worthy way, I always end up thinking of Anna Karenina. A woman “shunned” by “society”, the drama and downfall that ensues. In Victorian literature and Greek tragedy shame feels like the sequel to hubris, the dish served after the fall from grace. There is no blind Oedipus or Emma Bovary clutching her arsenic bottle without shame. These days it feels it’s been transmuted to an ill-defined fuzzy constant mainly because of online life - it’s a stick to beat oneself up with, a way to play watchdog, a way to silence. It’s hard to unpack but even though the tragedies are on a different scale, the stakes are just as high.

The stories in Shame - shaming, shamed, and the shameless - have something in common  with mask work in that concealment and exposition work alongside each other to tell a story. Through tales of pissing the bed, asking for help, plastic surgery, malfunctioning dicks, and HIV we bring you shame and our lack thereof.

A PostScript

We’ve arrived at our sixth and final issue of Guts Magazine with Shame. I have feelings about it but I’ll keep it short.

I started Guts because I wanted to create something that put writers  and their personal experiences at its centre while making use of illustration. It had to be confessional writing because it was polarising, interesting, and ultimately accessible. Over the past two years we’ve worked with over 50 people, been part of events and festivals, won an award, thrown a few parties, and had a fair share of typos.

Guts has afforded me the creative freedom to make something that is wholly my own. Its aesthetic, its ridiculously oblique titles, its themes, its tone, its muddled introductions and personal essays. For two years it’s been my sandbox and friend when I wasn’t afforded the opportunities or creative outlets by life and other jobs. I’ve met some of my best friends through it, made sense of money, learnt where my abilities begin and end, learnt about paper weights and typefaces. But by far the biggest takeaway from Guts has been other people’s generosity. People gave it their time and best work for no remunerative reason, doing it for the love of the thing itself. I’m grateful to the writers who trusted Guts with often difficult and raw stories. It took on a life of its own powered by those who created it. A special thanks is owed to Steve McCarthy, Steve O’Connor, and Paddy Dunne who were there throughout.

We’ll be back in the spring. Maybe it’ll be a podcast, maybe a book, maybe a makeup vlog or a feminist porn channel. But Auf Wiedersehen for now. R

Issue 6 Illustrator: Rob Mirolo

Rob phones me. With the million forms of deflecting communication at his disposal he almost always goes for the old school human phone call. Along with his cultivated gloominess and love of black, his phone calls are what have cemented our friendship and status as kindred spirits. Rob is a tone poem of velvet, black clouds, nicotine stains, charcoal, and Robert Smith’s hair. Shame was the perfect theme for him who, in spite of saying he’s never experienced it properly, is full of dark thoughts and consequently very kind. For the issue we got Rob to break from his traditional palette of black, red, and white and the results are amazing. You may have caught his work at the last Damn Fine Print exhibition or for Beatyard festival or in his notebook as scribbles furiously next to you in a pub.