The collection is made up entirely of two-page short stories, clumped together by theme. The first, “The Floods,” introduces the end of the world by water, starting with a blowout party to which everyone’s invited, and ending with a Snow Whiteinspired rumor that all the apples have been poisoned. “We hear of babies born with traces of twenty-seven poisons in their umbilical cords,” Phillips writes. “We sit in the kitchen, eating nothing.” It’s a world where the original Eve and Noah stroll in deep conversation, where a bitchy Bob Dylan helps with the grocery shopping, where our narrator walks all the way to the North Pole to find its most famous resident, only to be insulted for her efforts. There’s quite a lot of humor in these stories, although it’s very dark comedy indeed. And there’s a lovely bit of universality to certain sections, some of the best being themes that examine fights, failures, mistakes and punishments. In the middle, between “The Floods” and “The Apocalypses,” Phillips dwells on the cycles of family with a section that shines a light on the journey from bride to mother to the raising of offspring. Others are disturbing, portraying hauntings, monsters and other fantasies in ways that have to be read, and not described. Phillips’ unique worldview and clarity of language make every story a treat, be it miniature portraits of Anne Frank or Charlie Chaplin, or a sad instructional manual about how to rid oneself of all possessions.
A literary reflection to The Magnetic Fields’ album 69 Love Songs.