Thursday, May 31, 2012

Prom Night and Other Man-Made Disasters by Mark Coggins

When you meet Mark Coggins, he seems to be the quiet, former IT professional that he once was. Hah! There's a whole different warped side of him revealed in his collection of nonfiction essays, Prom Night and Other Man-Made Disasters.

But, then, he might have been set up to have a weird sense of humor. He had to find a way to rise above some of the things that happened to him. In "Equipment Makes the Man," he tells about his father's shopping mistakes, one of which led to Mark dropping out of Boy Scouts. It's a little embarrassing to take army surplus and Coleman equipment on a sixth grade camping trip.

Coggins is brutally honest about his failures with women, beginning with the girl who refused to go steady with him in seventh grade. There was the belly-dancing girlfriend who cheated on him, the possible prom dates who were stolen by his best friends, the professor he had a crush on, and the woman he terrified at work when he sent her a forged email. It's hard not to feel sorry for him. At the same time, his appearance at the train station to meet one girlfriend was a little odd. He dressed as a duck.

It isn't all school or dating stories in Prom Night and Other Man-Made Disasters. "Westboro Blues" is a poignant story about bigots, showing how some people never grow beyond their youthful beliefs. They never see people and the world as it is, and, if they have to, they compartmentalize their lives in order to hold on to their beliefs. "WTF?" was one of my favorite stories. Coggins skewers a company he once worked for, a company with a couple of incompetent men at the top. If you've ever left a job because of a lousy boss, Mark's departing gestures will make you happy.

Mark Coggins and I are the same age. My final thoughts after reading Prom Night and Other Man-Made Disasters? All of us have embarrassing stories in our past. It's not easy growing up. But, most of us don't have the guts to tell those stories on ourselves. Mark makes us laugh with him, while admiring his courage in admitting he sometimes made a fool of himself.

Mark Coggins' website is

Prom Night and Other Man-Made Disasters by Mark Coggins. Philodox Press. 2012. ISBN 9781467985710 (paperback), 181p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my book.

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