Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day Ben Loory 224 pp. Penguin. $15.00 Pub. Date: 7/26/2011
Reviewed by Paul Stotts
Publisher Blurb:Loory's collection of wry and witty, dark and perilous contemporary fables is populated by people--and monsters and trees and jocular octopi--who are motivated by the same fears and desires that isolate and unite us all. In this singular universe, televisions talk (and sometimes sing), animals live in small apartments where their nephews visit from the sea, and men and women and boys and girls fall down wells and fly through space and find love on Ferris wheels. In a voice full of fable, myth, and dream, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day draws us into a world of delightfully wicked recognitions, and introduces us to a writer of uncommon talent and imagination.
Short story collections aren't my normal thing. It is the literary equivalent of a fried mozzarella cheese appetizer as opposed to a meal consisting of two proteins, veggies, and a Chocolate Bundt cake (I have no idea what a Bundt cake is, but saying the word Bundt fills me with girlish glee). Both can be delicious, but like with eating, I read for satisfaction. So I avoid short stories typically.
Ben Loory points out this egregious mistake in his stunning collection of short stories, the aptly titled Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day. As the kids today say, My Bad! Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day contains 40 imaginative fables, nightmares, and literary oddities, each fighting hard for the title of wittiest and most unique. Loory operates at a high level throughout, cranking out gems like The Octopus, Death and the Fruits of the Tree, and UFO: A Love Story among others.
All the tales spring from a fantastical universe, where the level of wonder and magic Loory creates staggers, inspiring a near child-like awe. Reading Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is like seeing ideas explored from an entirely new and fresh perspective; it is familiar, yet ethereal. An out-of-body experience in a couple thousand words. The stories demand reflection, letting go is an impossibility. The seeds Loory plants in the reader's mind develop into treasures that are indelible.
Dreaming, loss, fear, and love are common threads that run through the stories. These themes are all very human, emotions that are easily identifiable to the reader, but Loory explores them in a profound new way. Humans yearn, but so does an octopus in Loory's universe. But seeing it written this way provides a clarity to the human experience, one that is not evident to us since we inhabit our experience. Once again, it is an out-of-body experience, but this body is the whole of humanity.
Ben Loory is an extremely talented and exciting new voice, one that is stretching the limits of contemporary fables in interesting ways. There is magic in Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, not some concrete hocus-pocus, a lady disappearing out of a cabinet with a wave of a hand. This is more subtle; this is fantasy that springs out of a sense of wonder. And it's stunning to behold.