Review: Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the DayStories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory
Published by Penguin on July 26, 2011
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Magical Realism, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Pages: 210
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

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 united by twin motivations: fear and desire. In his 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.

Contains the stories "The Duck" and "The Man and the Moose," as heard on NPR's This American Life, "The Book," as heard on Selected Shorts, and "The TV," as found in The New Yorker.

Ben Loory’s collection of short stories is, surprisingly, accurately portrayed by the cover. As much as I depend on them (old adages be damned), they often lie, depicting some scene or person never to occur or exist within the novel. The ocean, the spaceship and the octopus tentacle are all main aspects of at least one story. Let me also say that I love the cover, from the art to the texture of it. I also like the texture of the paper within (which does the old timey thing where some pages stick out more than others) and the flaps built into the trade paperback. This book is an excellent tactile experience.

Even before reading the first story, I was charmed by Loory, whose author’s note reads: “Here are some stories. I hope you like them.” So simple, but completely perfect, because that’s what I, as a reader just starting into the book, precisely hope to do. So, you may wonder, did I like the stories? For the most part, yes. The stories are all very short and the writing is deceptively simple. In very few of the stories did I feel like I had a good grasp on what exactly was going on.

Most of the stories are left very open-ended, almost as though the stories are as much about you as they are about the characters in them. This point is borne out by the fact that the characters generally do not have names, referred to only as boy, girl, man, woman, friend, etc. In fact, if I remember correctly, the only characters who receive names are animals: the octopus family in “The Octopus” (along with their likely human landlord, who may be the only human with a name) and the moose (who receives a moniker) “The Man and the Moose.” I am not quite sure what to make of this, but it’s definitely intriguing.

The universality of the characters combined with the fantasy/magic elements made the stories feel like modern fairy tales or fables or urban legends. The magic was pervasive, subtle and a part of the regular world, which reminded me, in an odd way, of Sarah Addison Allen’s novels. Where hers feature a sweet, happy magic, Loory’s magic is generally that of something dark and dangerous, although some of the stories included are cute ones (which I fancy are the ones for the day). As an example of what reading the stories is like, I am going to share the shortest story with you.

“Once there was a man who was afraid of his shadow.
Then he met it.
Now he glows in the dark.”

Without a doubt, Stories for the Nighttime and some for the day is an interesting read and exceedingly thought-provoking. Every story really is like the one above, in that the meaning is rather unclear and it’s up to you to suss it out. I think this would be an excellent title for a book group, as everyone could share their impressions and analyze the themes running through all of the stories to get at the project’s aims as a whole. I hope to see more from Ben Loory, especially what kind of a novel he would write.

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