(4 / 5)
David S. Atkinson’s latest short story collection, Roses Are Red, Violets Are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep, can best be described as one hundred Mad Libs filled in by someone on LSD while trapped in a Skate City on “Disco Night” circa 1987.
David has given his inner absurdist the keys to the kingdom here, with varying degrees of success. Read straight through, some of the stories start to feel a bit formulaic — start off with a paragraph that includes Kevin Bacon or Larry Bird, then a droll one-liner, careen sideways into the FDIC and peeled nickels for several paragraphs then end with a “Well, duh”-type shrug. It sometimes feels as though the words and phrases, as peculiar and entertaining as they are, could be interchanged with one another and the stories would neither suffer nor benefit from doing so. That said, the occasional feeling of déjà vu is outweighed by the overall solidity of David’s writing.
While the author’s intellect is slyly evident throughout the book, his undeniable talent as a writer can best be seen in the few longer stories in the anthology. In Kidnapping with Margaret Thatcher, there is an immediate, heart-warming relationship between the main character and the Iron Lady that allows the reader to relate to the characters, and not just read the story as an exercise in farcical writing. In another example, David’s humor and wit delightfully intertwine with his absurdism to produce Ideas: Where to Get Them and What to Do When They Won’t leave—arguably the strongest story in the collection. Anyone who relies on Calliope and her lot to gift them with ideas and inspiration will be able to heartily relate to how hard it can be to get rid of a seemingly bad idea that just won’t let go. Luckily for us, David knew that Roses Are Red was an idea worth keeping.