the Sweet and the Savory in Roberta Beach Jacobson’s “Demitasse Fiction: One-Minute Reads for Busy People”
Alien Buddha Press, 2022, 61 pages, 5.5” x 8.5 ISBN 979-8377304104, $10.99 on Amazon
Reviewed by Jerome Berglund
Possessing a highly original voice and enviable dynamic range spanning the full, impressive gamut of civilization from its most worldly urbane (pride marches, the jet set of society, La La Land) to superbly prosaic and folksy pastoral (encompassing agrarian antics, an unforgettable peacenik chance encountered, life slices from widest assortment of less represented or examined vocations and departments, including custodial, sales, stenography), whatever your personal preference be and tastes steer you, all can find many things to admire and savor in the light, extremely pleasurable, captivating and readable pages of Roberta Beach Jacobson’s debut – one may also discover her prolific writing published elsewhere in over ninety print anthologies! – short fiction collection from Alien Buddha Press.
Throughout, irreverent, cheeky, thought-provoking and inventive, always entertaining and stimulating scenarios, approaches to often tremendously serious (overcoming physical and mental illness, existential angst, the search for meaning, ego and class struggles; overcoming grief and different forms of loss figure prominently, as do profound moral and environmental questions and concerns) subject matter are readily displayed across a veritable curio shop of Lilliputian morsels artfully sketched.
Rarely can one observe individual foibles, society’s ills so endearingly and relatably satirized, skewered, and memorably mused upon with a wry smirk, particularly with such hard-boiled brevity and punchy immediacy. Jacobson locates droll humor, brings the levity, irony and pathos to even the darkest settings and situations, introducing welcome doses of alien into things mundane – and conversely, finding trace dashes of integral humanity amongst the elevated sublime. An economic literature of yins and yangs is this, cleverly discerning that blot of darkness in the light, speck of illumination glimmering about those shadows too, deftly seizing upon such disparities and artfully directing the reader to ponder their significances carefully at length. To accomplish such a feat in a few sentences or paragraphs is no easy task, something an audience can truly commend and learn from.
The author furthermore has a special gift and penchant for things Absurd, often embodying and exemplifying that dreamlike quality and character startlingly consistent with the French schools of surrealist dada, prose poets and existentialist writers — Camus and Kafka come swiftly to mind frequently, as do Apollinaire and Verlaine —but with a distinctive buoyancy (referred to in the Eastern short form traditions, which this collection’s creator has also distinguished herself as a master and authority in, as the ideal of ‘karumi’, argued thoughtfully for by such pillars as Matsuo Basho) strikingly evinced, in pure and unadulterated form.
Roberta Beach in Demitasse Fiction: One-Minute Reads for Busy People establishes herself as a literary alchemist of sorts, able to wield word and idea and transmute them unexpectedly at will, shape story and tone, regulate pacing and scope with the flair and command of an orchestra conductor. Chimerically, she slips in and out of new disparate skins one after another, with the ease and panache of a host’s outfit changes at an award show ceremony, or shifting voices between alternating personalities (and each one’s peculiar attendant idiosyncrasy, neurosis, core fallibility, depicted warts and all beside their equally identifiable saving graces and redeeming qualities, articulated with remarkable sensitivity, empathic finesse) in a one-woman show — that the author has a standup background should come as no surprise, is on constant remarkable exhibition.
Micro fiction, in its contemporary analog and electronic incarnations, is an exciting and promising emerging form, essential for our harried modern citizen of necessarily limited time and attention span. From an egalitarian standpoint, it is uniquely accessible in ways more verbose genres of literature shall never manage, and thus as mode presents a wondrous and pivotal opportunity of synthesizing and transmitting meaningful concepts, information and messages to masses scrubbed and unwashed alike.
For those who relish the advantageous prospect of experiencing emotional rollercoasters capable of condensing the overarching thrust and zeitgeist of War and Peace or Huckleberry Finn into their daily commute, you don’t want to miss this stunning exemplar of the form at its most dexterously applied. An important and riveting contribution to the prose landscape, as well as a generous gift and boon for the world’s many Busy People craving stimulating culture and narratives delivered in manageable, meticulously honed tidbits of delicacy.
Roberta Beach Jacobson is drawn to the magic of words — poetry, puzzles, song lyrics, short fiction, stand-up comedy. Her work has been anthologized 90 times. She is the Fleakeeper at Five Fleas (Itchy Poery) and lives with her husband and three cats in Indianola, Iowa.
Jerome Berglund (USA, firstname.lastname@example.org @BerglundJerome) has published book reviews in Frogpond, Fireflies Light, Valley Voices, GAS: Poetry, Art and Music, Setu Bilingual Journal, he has also shared short form poetry in the Asahi Shimbun, Bottle Rockets, Ribbons, and Modern Haiku.