There is nothing better than a collection of short stories to get me out of a reading slump. I’ve recently been having a little bit of trouble focusing on any one book or story, but Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors contained stories too short for me to possibly loose focus and too interesting for me to bother with putting it down after one story. Gaiman came through, as usual, with the perfect amount of weird and relatable. I have read one other collection of his called Fragile Things, his novel American Gods, and, of course, his comic books, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones. I loved those, especially the Sandman Series, but there was something particularly satisfying about Smoke and Mirrors.
I have officially gotten to the point in my own writing where I’m a little bit obsessed with finding out about the process various writers go through. So I was extra thrilled to see that in my copy of Smoke and Mirrors there is a little note from Neil Gaiman about each story. Some of them are explaining why the story exists, which, a lot of the time was someone asked for it, and some of them explain the various iterations the story went through before arriving in Smoke and Mirrors. This extra bit of context for the stories, while exciting for me as a writer, are also helpful in grounding the stories a bit. If you sit down and read a bunch of these at once it is easy to feel as though the worlds you’re being pulled through are too fantastical to keep up with. Flipping to the front of the book and putting some familiar reality around the fantasy was a helpful way to keep my feet on the ground.
The stories themselves were, in true Gaiman fashion, all surprising in their own ways. They ran the spectrum of spooky, scary, funny, and downright odd. It is so easy for me to get caught up in a reading list of books that I need to slog through. Picking up Smoke and Mirrors every once in a while to, for five minutes (sometimes less), be surprised by what would come next in this book of little oddities was pretty delightful. That’s not to say all the stories were happy ones, this is Gaiman after all, but they were all well crafted snippets that made me think a little harder about what reality actually is and could be. I like a book that does that, and one that can do it in easily digested bits and bobs is even better!
Common Place Book Entries:
“You want to know the future, love? Then wait:”
–Reading the Entrails: A Rondel from Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep listening. Keep creating.