Small-sized reviews, raves, and recommendations.
Short, funny, and weird. Perhaps a description of Danny DeVito, but also an encapsulation of David S. Atkinson’s short story collection. Roses are Red, Violets are stealing loose change from my pockets while I sleep, offers, like its over-long title, a foray into the strange imagination of Atkinson. With titles like “The Prime Directive by Definition Isn’t Evenly Divisible by Either Dried Strawberries or Opie Taylor,” “Kim Jong-un Has to Sit at the Kid’s Table Because He Kept Trying to Annex the Gravy,” and “Deliberately Missing Henry Kissinger,” he offers microfictions with mega-titles. Pop culture, politics, science fiction, and everyday surrealism combine into tiny literary confections.
Published in 2018 by Literary Wanderlust, it is pre-pandemic fiction worth treasuring in this post-pandemic world. When it seems like the entire planet has gone crazy and today’s headlines read like it was written by a wolverine on angel dust, Roses are Red is a pleasant distraction. “Of course, Gloria Steinem and Phyllis Schafly did beat the living crap out of me with a motorcycle chain and a broken Chivas Regal bottle. I had to expect that, so I wasn’t too upset.” Lines like that pepper the stories, as if a local TV anchor read them with a straight face. “EVERYBODY had a lemonade stand, even that Russian guy down the street who talked to Latvian men in Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles about “targets” and didn’t seem interested in selling any actual lemonade. I was the only entrepreneur with enough vision to sell cake door-to-door.”
Atkinson combines the narrative precision of, say, O. Henry, with a free-associative riffing of Sun Ra guesting with GWAR at this year’s ComiCon. In a literary scene super-saturated with indie miserablism and self-important pap, Roses are Red has the antidote. Silly and short, easily read during a coffee break or commute, the stories are joyously bent and laden with pop culture references. After the Pandemic, it’s high time to let one’s freak flag fly and have some damn fun.