I should be forward right away and say The Madness of Art: Short Stories isn’t your usual short story collection. With most collections, what you end up getting are a handful of stories the author wrote over the course of their career. Oftentimes, this means the stories are written months or even years apart, and oftentimes the writing quality wildly changes from story to story. Also, most collections of stories are just that: stories. More often than not, they’re unrelated to each other. Very likely, you might buy the book, read a few, but never get around to reading the whole thing. I own a dozen or so collections I’ve barely read.
With The Madness of Art: Short Stories, what you’re getting are eight tales written over the course of about a year. What’s more, every story relates to the theme of the artistic process and the strangeness and insanity it engenders.
The first three stories in the collection are a bit surreal, existing outside of any real setting. The rest of the stories come together to represent a sort of life cycle, beginning with a story about a young children’s book author and ending with a story of a middle aged man looking back on his career and looking forward into the long night ahead.
Also, I should point out these aren’t pleasant little slice-of-life stories where nothing really happens. Every story contains a quest or a mystery to be solved.
The last thing I’d like to point out is that calling these “short stories” is rather misleading on my part. Most are pretty long, hovering in a sort of limbo between short stories and novellas. While this creates more work for the reader, it also ensures that you’re getting more of a story instead of a tiny anecdote or piece of gossip.