Author: Stephen Schwegler
Publisher: Jersey Devil Press
Release Date: March 15, 2010
If I had to use one word to describe this book, it would be “quirky.” Schwegler has sought to use the world around us and give it a slant. With appearances by intelligent squirrels, talking food, and even Jesus, the range of story subjects will make you look at reality in a new way.
The large theme of the collection seems to be the absurdity of life itself. In “Decisions” a man is kidnapped and held at gunpoint, given the decision to either consume a plate of buttered toast or a plate of glazed doughnuts before his captor will let him leave. That’s it, that’s the only action he has to take, yet he can’t make a choice. And we are left to wonder whether we spend too much time consumed by minor decisions, enough so that we are unable to progress at all.
And there are also stories that look at the world from the non-human viewpoint, showing that all of life cannot be contained just from our perspective. The collection begins with “Doughnuts,” which does not focus on the office-workers and their day, but instead focuses on the doughnuts that one worker has brought in to share. You begin sympathizing with the pastries when, instead of the heaven they think they’re being picked to experience, they are consumed by the unfeeling humans. Their mundane existence is wiped out by others’ mundane existences, leaving the last doughnut no hope for the future.
I found “In Search of the Glass Chicken” particularly appealing because of the complexity of all the elements which came together in achievement of the goal. Ben drives the eighty-five miles to work on a stop and start road, taking up to five hours to and from, simply because the road is free. And when the monotony of this existence is broken up by the forced mission to seek out the rumored glass chicken, he takes to it. We often seek out a temporary vacation from our everyday monotony. It allows us to regroup and revitalize so that we may return to our realities until the need for adventure comes again.
Because the stories in this collection are so short, the reader is able to quickly drop in and take a look at multiple world absurdities. I found it a relaxing way to end my day, as I gave my mind time to decompress and realize that the world around us is indeed full of things that just don’t make a lot of sense. But we push on and persevere. And maybe, once in a while, we’ll have a new mission to look forward to.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars