Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons: Stories, By Keith Rosson, 190 pgs.

Mar 17, 2021

I read and reviewed two of fellow RZC dude Keith Rosson’s novels prior to the arrival of this short story collection. I thought both of them were dazzling and wondered how different his short stories would be. The immediate answer is not at all: the tales herein continue to advance the case that Keith Rosson is one of America’s most talented and engaging writers, no shit or hyperbole.

The secondary answer, once we get past the thorough endorsement, is that Rosson’s short stuff demonstrates the same vicious restraint as someone like George Saunders, who metes out only the thinnest slivers of detail, forcing readers to mentally squint and really dig into the tiny clues provided. I’m sure that the drafts of these stories were like five times longer, until, like a surgeon (Weird Al voice: hey!), he cut out every last bit of what wasn’t immediately needed to create a hook and pull the reader in.

But once Keith has you by the lip, he doesn’t make it easy: you’re sucked in, but incrementally, until the dazzling a-ha moment when everything finally clicks into place. Stories herein like “Hospitality” shift voices and tones in an effort to reveal the banality of evil in the form of profit and negligence; others, like “Baby Jill” and its discussion of the modern-day tooth fairy, veer away from everyday settings and towards the magical realism Rosson used to such fantastic effect in Smoke City. Whatever genre I use to describe Keith’s stuff is secondary to the overarching fact that his writing, above all else, is killer. I can’t wait to see what’s next even as I’m awed by the quality of this collection and his previous books. –Michael T. Fournier (Meerkat,

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