The 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge was created and is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. You can find my full TBR here, and keep reading for my spoiler-free thoughts on Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory.
Content Warning: Gore, violence, suicidal ideation, suicide
Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day
- Fables, fairy tales, short stories
- 208 pages
This collection of wry and witty, dark and perilous contemporary fables and tales is populated by people—and monsters and aliens and animals and inanimate objects—motivated by and grappling with the fears and desires that unite us all. In this visionary world, televisions talk (and sometimes sing), octopi leave the sea to collect spoons in small city apartments, and boys and girls and men and women fall down wells and fly through space and find love on Ferris wheels. As you turn these pages of gleaming, stripped-down prose, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day will make you see the world in a whole new way—the way you did a long time ago, before you grew up and closed your eyes.
My thoughts on this book all fall under the theme of: how are these publishable stories? I am less than thrilled about the contents of this collection, which, on the back cover and even on the front, were blurbed so positively. I truly have nothing good to say about Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, but I will do my best to relay my criticisms constructively.
The main criticism being that the stories feel more like half-thought out drafts than completed works. Most have tremendous beginnings, shocking middles, and there are even occasional twist endings, but there is not one example in which these parts make up a whole. I expected to find weird and uncanny subjects, experimental narratives, and believed even the wildest setups (which for fairy tales or fables is sort of a requirement), and yet I left each story with the feeling that the author exerted so much energy being clever in the beginnings and middles of the stories, that by the time the conclusions came around he was tired out and abandoned any purpose or intention in order to start the next story so this collection would meet deadline.
This sounds harsh even to me, but my expectations were far from met with the tales, allegories, fables, and whatever else Ben Loory tried to do here. These genres do not require tidy endings, logical sequence of events, or “realistic” characters; but having an octupus as a main character who lives on land among humans, or a man who is the only person who sees a “monster” in a public pool, or a tree that can walk and talk until it is trapped by humans, for example, are not enough to wow me. I also need substance – which in this collection I found fleeting.
Even the writing style started to feel less and less individualistic and more like outlines to paragraphs and thoughts that should have been expanded. Short sentences can be effective if they are punchy and build upon growing tension and anticipation, but unfortunately the ones in this book lacked depth.
I read to the end because the stories were short and quickly paced, and because I kept hoping to find a favorite tale among the 40, but alas, I was left disappointed. If you find this one on the shelves of your local library, or in a clearance section at a bookstore, maybe give a couple of the tales a read if you are so inclined. Or, like I’m going to, search for haunting, unnerving tales and fables elsewhere.