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The Smell Collector by David Hill Burns


The story of a man whose only meaningful contact with the world is through smells, who is slowly working his way out of his mother’s basement out into the wide world of people and relationships.

The Smell Collector tells the story of Jim Bronson and Marie Bellman. Jim has a hobby. He collects smells. Marie happens to have the most beautiful smell. What happens when Jim tries to collect Marie? A humorous, quirky, possibly disturbing but definitely heartwarming tale of two lonely-hearts who are brought together by smells.

Note: The Smell Collector contains some harsh language.

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Listed: Jan 17, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

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Ha ha – Something Special

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Jan 18, 2014: Jim has a hobby, and he’s very good at it. But sometimes it leads to problems.

"I have been banned from the shoe and boot repair shop. The owner, a Mr. Young-soo Kim, objected to my close range sniff of his person (ginger, garlic, and leather). His words were “You no sniff around here no more. I break your nose!” It’s difficult for me to understand humor, but I think that perhaps he was being jovial with me. I’ll come back later this week to find out."

Although the story doesn’t overtly say so, I’m pretty sure Jim has Asperger’s Syndrome. Because he’s been dedicated to his passion for analyzing the components of scents of people, places, and events since childhood, he has an amazing ability to pick them out like a trained musician might pick out notes in a symphony. When he’s not discreet enough in his research on the smell profiles of random strangers, though, like Marie in the library, she doesn’t understand that it’s all for science and reacts as you might expect.

However, Marie has issues of her own, and though their first interaction is inauspicious, it turns out that Jim and Marie each hold the key to something very important to the other.

This is a fairly simple story, yet it manages to be funny, original, and ultimately, beautiful. It could easily have gone wrong by being too silly, or getting maudlin, or losing our sympathy for its oddball characters, but instead it hits all the right notes. It’s not often a story makes me smile and giggle, and also makes me cry.

At the very least, after reading this story you’ll never think of smells the same way. Except for a few favoured scents of flowers and maybe cookies baking, people tend to think of smells as a bad thing, to avoid. But for most other animals, it’s the primary sense with which to know the world. The Smell Collector is on to something.

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Most Helpful Member Reviews

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Smell collector doesn’t stink.

By Wildbow, author of Ward

May 1, 2014: Our protagonist is a small adult man with no social graces, who lives with his mother, surreptitiously (or so he thinks) sniffing people. As a character driven work, this is essentially the story summed up – following a damaged individual who tries to make sense of the world by codifying its smells.

The Smell Collector (TSC) is a hard work for me to review. I tend to put a lot of stock in the flow of a work: the manner in [more . . .]

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No title

By DanWeatherly, author of The New Devil

Feb 5, 2012: The Smell Collector is an odd bit of fiction.

Its central character, Jim Bronson, is fascinating in all his socially awkward, idiosyncratic glory. As the title would suggest, he collects smells. He’s fascinated with his olfactory sense and seems to devote the majority of his time working out the mysteries in everything he smells and determining the physical and chemical makeups of each scent.

He’s a weird guy. And that makes him [more . . .]

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Makes you stop and smell the roses

By Bequail, author of The Scapegoats

Aug 31, 2016: For someone who barely has a sense of smell due to year-round allergies, The Smell Collector was a fun and intriguing experience.

The story follows Jim Bronson, a man who has trouble grasping social nuances and collects smells like one would take photographs. He goes around sniffing people and things so he can recreate those scents in his basement.

Already, the above line should be an indication to the type of person [more . . .]

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