21 July 2019

Review || A Magnet to a Flame by Shawn Patrick Cooke


A video store that transports you through time. Immortality from a microwave oven. A trip across the Atlantic, from the comfort of an armchair. From the mind of Shawn Patrick Cooke comes a collection of stories that brush gently against reality. 

Featuring both previously published works and never-before-seen stories, this debut collection ranges from America's industrial past to a potluck at the end of the world; from windswept moors to suburban homes, from fairy tales to harsh reality—while shining a light on the core of what it means to be human.
 


A Magnet to a Flame is a unique collection of stories whisking the reader away to alternate realities. With names like Sonnet in Elegy of the Cheap Wattle Bottle I Bought at Kroger and Your Blind Date Mansplains "Token Back to Brooklyn" While He Sinks in Quicksand, you can only expect something a bit quirky and fantastical. Even from the Foreword in which the author explains what stories he DIDN'T include from José Kwan and the Mystic Turkey of Terror to poetry about calculus, you know you are in for a treat. A Magnet to a Flame doesn't disappoint. 

VIDEO takes us to a video store that transports you through time. I loved the narration of this one, telling us how to experience the jaunt to 1984 like he has many, many times. There's a melancholy feel to it as well. The escapism of the normal, everyday life, in which time is slowly running out, to a place where popcorn scents the air and the stars are coming out and you might, just might find happiness. 

End of the World Potluck and Wine Tasting, 1 P.M Until ??? is a very short story taking us to the zombie apocalypse. Instead of hoarding food and secreting themselves away, the survivors decide to throw potluck to herald in the end of the world. What else gives hope to humanity than living it up with a potluck?

Some of the stories are darker like Dolly Hobbles and Black Pudding. The Immortality of Conrad Cavella, for example, starts light-hearted enough. Conrad Cavella is immortal and he knows this, as he's stealing life back seconds at a time from unused time on microwaves. However, those regained seconds of time aren't always spent the way expected. 

One thing connects these stories together though. Almost all have pursuance of happiness strung throughout, though, like Conrad Cavella, not all stories end in happy ever after. While some stories are mere pages, each of them catapults us into a strange new reality, with the people who feel vividly authentic as we traverse their alien existence with them.