Stories for Nighttime and Some For the Day by Ben Loory

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day came to me from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. Although I love the cover (the sea, the sky, a tentacle, and a spaceship!) this is a book that I wouldn’t have found on my own. So chalk it up as one of the nice things about book blogging – getting to read good books outside your usual purview.

Read one of the stories, “The Girl In the Storm” here

Now, how do I describe this book? The one sentence summary is that this is a set of weird little stories. Very short, simple stories that feel like someone is relating a dream to you. Nameless and indistinct figures are the central characters. There was “a man”, “a woman”, “a moose”, “a tree”, “a boy”, or “a girl”, and then this very strange thing happens to them. Maybe they encounter an alien, or an ominous hat starts following them. Maybe they find a fish in their teapot. The story continues from there, and you keep reading because you have no idea how the story is going to end, and with 40 stories in 210 pages, each story is only a few pages long. And you have to know. Then you begin the next story. It’s the literary equivalent of eating potato chips. Before long, you’ve eaten the whole bag.

This book grew out of a horror writing class, but I didn’t find any of the stories very frightening, there’s just the dread of the unknown about some of them. They end in a way that suggests something bad has just happened without explicitly telling the reader what that was. To tell you the truth, most of my favorites had this sort of end. My other favorites were the stories that were just about living life – the stories in which someone or something decides to see the world, and what happens when they do, or the stories that had characters finding a friend or a love. I liked the sweet endings and the uncertain endings, although there were of course the endings that were neither.

Most of the stories were good, but every so often I hit one that fell flat. Usually these were the ones where I just didn’t get their point and as a result they became forgettable. I feel like either I’ve failed as a reader for not appreciating the meaning in the story, or the story has failed to actually convey a meaning. I can’t decide which.

Overall: I’d say I liked this one and it is a compelling read, but I also felt a little bit like these stories rely on a sort of Quirky-Kooky formula. It would have been nice to have stories in the mix that did not rely on this. I’d recommend it to people who have an appreciation for the offbeat.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers – 8 (Excellent, and a notable read of 2011)