Title:Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
Author: Ben Loory
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Where I got it:The publisher, for review, through NetGalley
The 39 stories (like 39 Steps, what a lovely round number) that make up Ben Loory's collection, feel in turn like fables, like parables, like campfire stories, and like jokes. Reading them, sometimes I felt horrified, sometimes delighted, occasionally confused and intermittently cheated. They were reminiscent of Kafka, and of children's picture books, and even of Oscar Wilde's, A Portrait of Dorian Grey. I buzzed through the collection, getting lost in the repetition of it, until it developed into a whole that, if it taught me something, taught me that leaving home only leaves us longing to return.
To be a bit less vague and impressionistic, many of Loory's stories feature a type of magical realism that brings inanimate objects, or the least likely of animals (octopi anyone?) into the most mundane aspects of our world. Many of the stories have shocking and horrifyingly dark turns. Others end in beautiful simplicity. Some don't feel like they end at all. The most memorable story for me is the story of an octopus, living in an apartment in New York City, collecting spoons (like Salad Fingers if any of you have watched that You Tube gem). His nephew comes from the sea to visit one day, and the octopus begins to realize that maybe he misses his former home. Here is how the book begins:
The woman returns from the store with an armload of books. She reads them quickly, one by one, over the course of the next few weeks. But when she opens the last one, the woman frowns in surprise.
All the pages in the book are blank.
Every single one.