Thoughts on What You Make It by Michael Marshall Smith

I like to keep at least one Short Story collection on my nightstand. If I don’t have a new one to read I keep short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, H.P. Lovecraft or Haruki Murakami there.

Short stories are different from longer fiction. They require a certain dedication and delicacy which all authors can’t provide. It’s an art form in itself, just like writing poetry is very different from writing prose.

And I love a good short story.
For me the perfect short story can be read in one or two sittings. It either leaves me stunned or contemplative (sometimes for days, weeks, months…) and it has a fast built-up (obviously). A short story can leave an impact much deeper than a novel can. It takes you on a short journey and it rattles you, it shakes you up like an earthquake. While a novel is more like a blizzard (to keep this rather strange catastroph/e(ic) metaphor) – long lasting, less shocking and ever changing.

I don’t remember who first said I should read Michael Marshall Smith but I do know that his name has been on my “to-read” list for quite a while now (between Arthur Machen and J.G. Ballard (R.I.P.)). But as his books never jumped out at me at the library or in the bookstore his name has been on that list until recently.

I found What You Make It in my favorite bookstore, stuck behind two other books (which is very rare to see in there I might add). I took it out, remembered the name and as I have not read a book of good short stories in a while I thought it was perfect. I went to the cash register. Paid. Realized afterwards that I had only paid 27 SEK (2,39 EUROs – I was expecting a considerably higher prize) went back to tell them that something had gone wrong, only to realize that the book was on sale.
I felt like I was cheating.

And all the more after actually having read it because this is an excellent collection of short stories, some of which I am sure will sit with me for quite a while. They are told with playful glee, more often than not leaving the reader in awe.

I especially cherish the story called “The Man Who Drew Cats”. It’s one of these stories where each meaning seems to add to the story. I found myself smiling widely when I read: “My old Pa used to say that cats weren’t nothing but sleeping machines put on the earth to do some of the human’s sleeping for them[…]” (p. 121)

The stories are varied and each leave a different impact, some can be classified under the horror genre, others are surreal and strange. It’s always hard to classify books under certain genres and it’s often especially difficult with short stories so I won’t try further. But know that these stories will lead you on a strange journey from a geeks nightmare to surreal grandmother. And it’s a journey you will not regret taking. These stories are about god, the future, our lives, our fears and about love.

Which leaves me to simply say that if you are a fan of the short story you will not be disapointed with this book.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mae says:

    Short stories are an underrated art, in my opinion. I only gained appreciation for them when I was made to read them last year! Such amazing writing, details and character building in such a short amount of space. Writers must be pithy! The stories I write are mainly short stories – mainly because I don’t have a long attention span! :-p Have you read Katherine Mansfield?


  2. Mae says:

    And, ohhh, I see you’re reading Angel’s Game! I’m still waiting for it to be released here in Australia. I’ve been waiting patiently for the last 2 years!


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