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on July 26, 2011
Raymond Chandler once said that a "good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled." When I first came to read Ben Loory's stories five years ago, I began to see just what Chandler meant. For me, these stories were, and are, a revelation: in some ways so modern, their brevity suited to our contemporary attention span, so easily consumed sitting on the subway, while wondering how a particular tale might end (I never could guess what would happen next), and yet so familiar: so like the fables, and myths, the sagas, and the dreams and the twilight zones that I have loved, that they feel they must have existed before Ben wrote them.

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is pure distillate of story, boiled down to the essential words that unfurl inside and take up residence, and the disarming restraint of their sinewy form only serves to bring me in closer so that I'm collected inside them, as they are inside this book, as they collect inside my memory, as they make laugh (oh so hard), cower (equally hard), and smile (hardest there is). They make me feel, for those moments when I am in them, that I have a reprieve from this world, and have really lived these stories myself, that I was part of them and those sublimely surreal other worlds that we are still left to discover in this looryverse.

The most visceral moments in reading are the ones to wait for, so absorbing you can almost reach out and touch the taut atmosphere, and the tension of the tale resolves itself inside you. Ben's book is full of these moments, told with a direct simplicity and metre; his words wash over you, delightful and unexpected, like a convenient sprinkler on an unbearably hot day. This writing is no inch of ivory but more a paint-with-water book, the paint inked on in defined lines, just enough, mind, and you simply add your own water to a world that becomes more vivid and real every moment, and then you wipe off the brush, or eye, if need be.

I don't want to give too much away in this review about what you will read in these pages: I will not point out favourites (though i do have them)because each of the stories has its own secrets at its core, and it's how we reflect these stories on ourselves that we come to love one or another best. I will say that these pages are a pastiche of the paranormal mixed with some magic, deepened by dazzling darkness, populated with people, trees, ducks, tvs, the sea, and the breeze, so very many things and beings changing, and they morph before our eyes, and as the characters change, we change too.

If it's not clear by now, this is an exhortation to people that might read this review: I recommend you get this book the minute it comes out. I'm hard on books, but I know what I like, and I love this. I knew at first reading that there was something very special in these stories. I know you will find charm, and enchantment, some anxiety, some sorrow, some sweetness, and occasionally hope here. This is a breathtakingly lovely collection of little stories, so full of nighttime and day, so spare and so fine, I cannot now imagine living my life without it, and can't for the life of me, think why you should either.
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on July 26, 2011
Here's the thing about the stories in Ben Loory's collection Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, each one will make you feel something different. One of them made me cry with its sad beauty. Another scared the bejeezus out of me with its quiet terror. Another made this desert rat of a girl long for the ocean. And still another made me laugh out loud with delight. Some of them torture you with their brevity...wait, you say, that's it? But I want to know more! But Mr. Loory doesn't tell you more. And it's ok really. Only giving you that bit that he's giving you and making that bit so very powerful is what keeps his stories with you for days and days after you've read them. Pondering...imagining...weighing.
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on July 26, 2011
Ben Loory's Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a book of fairy tales for adults. Kind of. The tales have this sort of secret ingredient in them that makes you feel incredibly wise when you read the book. Like, while you're reading it, you might think, "Of course I don't know why that man did that thing in this story, but I feel like I'm almost smart enough to figure it out even though it's an unsolvable puzzle. Take that, person-who-got-better-grades-than-me-in-elementary-school!"

When Ben Loory read a piece from the book in Denver, my girlfriend and I both cried. When Ben Loory sent me the manuscript for a blurb, I held it in my heart each night for a summer while my girlfriend was in Taiwan. Oh, to get through the day and have stories from this book awaiting you!

Here's the blurb I wrote:

"Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a book that comes alive when you read it. It will stand on its own, pet your hair while you sleep, and hold the umbrella over your head in the rain."

None of those claims are outrageous in the least.
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on November 13, 2011
The blurb there really pulled me in. A collection of short stories with a little bit of horror, a little bit of sci-fi, a little bit of everything. It sounded right up my alley. And it really wasn't bad but it left me wanting. Not necessarily more stories but more out of the stories that were already in there.

There's a thin thread of similarity among all of the stories - there's something not right about them. Whatever it is, the ending will twist. The degree of that twist isn't always the same but they're strung together by a hint of the macabre in each. That I really did like. There wasn't a story in this anthology that I didn't like.

Kind of in that same vein they were so short that I think that was a big reason why I couldn't find one that I didn't like. All of them had enough to pull me in and hold on to me, with endings that were more often than not abrupt but still provided a punch. But at the same time they were so short that, for a lot of them I felt like I couldn't get too much out of them. There were some that did well as short stories, written succinctly and that the voice did it a service. One that really stands out in my head is with a little boy crawling through a water tunnel trying to find the end and getting stuck. The ending to that one is phenomenal.

But by the end of STORIES I was a little done with the writing. It's a very simple type of style that I think works really well in small doses and fit many of Loory's shorts but reading one after another in the same tone just got a little boring for me. While the subjects of the stories differed, the voice was the same in every single one of them. Aside from the short I mentioned above, not too many others really stood out to me because the voice blended them all together. I would have liked to have seen different tones for the different stories in STORIES. I think it would have made them pop a little more and differentiated each a little better.

But I would really recommend this one. It's short and to the point and really, the shorts are pretty good with some really good twists. But the voice just got to me after a while. I was looking for something different by the end. I know a lot of people like that simpler way of storytelling, straightforward and to the point with zero fat, and like I said above, it can fit, but it was a bit of an overkill here. I would have liked either a shorter book or a greater tonal variety. But still, read it. The stories are great and all are some level of creepy. Just keep your eye out for the voice. The one lone voice throughout the anthology. You might be better able to stomach it than I could but even if not, I'm sure you'll still like what you're reading.
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on October 24, 2011
Warning: not to be read in a single night, weekend, or even over a week. Even though the bites can be easily swallowed, don't be tempted. Make it last.

Most likely, I'm not the first to comment this: Ben Loory's stories remind me a wee of Russell Edson's poetry. Dare I say this? The matter-of-fact entries in present tense, ("The octopus is spooning sugar into his tea when there is a knock on the door." the outlandish assertions, (Abruptly, the boy realizes he can fly.") and the objects or animals given voice, ("Well, says the moose, I'm not saying that I'm afraid of them, understand. But they're always out in the woods looking at me.) are techniques these two authors share.

However, despite some familiarities in style, the world needs more curious-surreal-slipstream-magical-realism-original-clever-paranormal-odd-strange-funny-peculiar-weird-left-field-irregular-atypical-distinctive prose, therefore the planet is better for the arrival of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day.

These are short pieces to appreciate--each has a zany tang and should be mulled-over. After reading, humankind will look different, a little more secretive, a little more singular. The animals, too.
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on August 23, 2011
Some people may argue that all stories have been told. Aesop, Herodotus, Geoffrey Chaucer, the Brothers Grimm, One Thousand and One Nights, Geoffrey of Monmouth, years of oral tradition and lost authors--some may argue that we have left behind such creation and that today's tales stand no chance against time. Our folk tales and fairy tales and campfire tales are pretty much set, it's true. But in saunters Ben Loory and his contemporary fables and all that has changed.

Loory's first short story collection, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, rose from a bookstore writing class. The title describes the collection well: I can imagine children (and adults, probably) reading many of the stories by flashlight, hours after their bedtimes. These "nighttime" stories are much like nightmares, with everyday people discovering that the rules of the universe no longer apply.

Loory's unique writing style gives the stories their fable-like tone; using simple sentence structures and foregoing most description and proper names, he invites the reader into the story. It's remarkable how intimate the stories become through these stylistic choices. Some stories will seem like nightmares plucked straight from your head--being trapped in a dark, endless ocean, trying to hide from Death, growing old, forgetting. Others will seem like bedtime stories you have heard a hundred times before but only hazily remember. These gems, just as entrancing as the horror stories but fewer in number, are best read in the day.

The "day" stories are even more fable-like, including anthropomorphized animals and objects. My favorite story in the collection, "The Duck," may contain the most delightful and heartbreaking opening line I have ever read: "A duck fell in love with a rock."

As I read "The Duck," I already knew I would be reading it over and over for years to come, and I could hear its lines echoing through the ages. Unlike fables or fairy tales, Loory's contemporary tales do not preach generosity, forgiveness, etc. but, like dreams (good or bad), end just when something else interesting might happen. It's a risky technique, leaving so much open-ended, but necessary for the stories' integrity as more than fables. Loory has begun to give us a new canon of universal stories that capture fears and hopes without triteness or promises that goodness always wins.

Many of our favorite tales have no remembered author, or too many to remember, and Loory's voice seems to mimic this anonymity. He is so talented that any obvious authorship melts away into the reader's experience of the story. The stories seem to speak for themselves, erupting from the heart of humanity. But this is only thanks to Loory's light hand--one author whose name will not be lost.
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on December 2, 2013
I bought this book after hearing the author read one of the stories in it on NPR.

As it turns out, I really, really love that one particular story, and I just don't care for the rest of them. Many of them are modern Lovecraft-ian in nature. Others are just plain bizarre (at least to me).

Perhaps I just don't appreciate abstract stuff well enough, but I ended up not enjoying most of the stories in the collection.
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on June 26, 2014
These are children's stories written for adults, or adults' stories written for children. The characters are often named only by their species ("the duck," "the woman," "the moose") and the plot, in the style of a children's story, leaves out most details and large sections of time.

At their best, the stories are deeply ambiguous and you're left with the feeling of reaching for and almost grasping a deep meaning. At their worst, the stories are unfulfilling and arbitrary. Happily, there are many hits, and for what it is this is a strong collection.
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on August 5, 2011
I've never really thought of myself as a "short story" person, but I love this book. The stories are weird, sad, romantic, and magical -- often, all at the same time.

I read it in two days, which I immediately regretted. I wish I'd paced myself, and read one each night just before falling asleep. Ben Loory's stories are like fairy tales for grown-ups (only there aren't any fairies, and some of them are totally kid-friendly). Some of them sound silly on the surface -- a tree that walks? a friendship between a house and an ocean? -- but somehow, I feel like they feed my subconscious exactly what it needs for good dreams.

After finishing the book, I found myself wishing I could hire the author to come over and tell me a bedtime story every night, but I suppose that's probably not a realistic option. Instead, I will leave the book near my bed, so I can re-read a story whenever I feel the urge.
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on June 18, 2013
I heard about Ben Loory on This American Life and was familiar with his lovely duck story. I had NO idea what I was getting when I bought this. I thought these would be stories to share with my daughter, but I would NOT recommend reading these as bedtime stories. I'm new to this genre and finding it quite likable and disturbing all at the same time, but I love stick-to-your-ribs content like Loory's. I'm a new fan.
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