Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

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"If Mother Goose and Philip K. Dick had a love child, and Richard Brautigan raised him in Watermelon Sugar, he might write stories like Ben Loory." -Jonathan Evison

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 ...

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"If Mother Goose and Philip K. Dick had a love child, and Richard Brautigan raised him in Watermelon Sugar, he might write stories like Ben Loory." -Jonathan Evison

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.

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Editorial Reviews

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The man is on a path. It is a funny thing. Life sort of gives him hints. Just before the phone rings, the man will look over. When he gets the urge to play the lottery, he wins...when suddenly he is hit by a car... And the path disappears. The man's family is a mystery, his work unfathomable. Simple daily tasks are beyond him. He must forge a new path without the direction life has offered before, not knowing where it will lead.

Such is the experience of reading Loory's remarkable collection of short stories. The quote, from "The Path," illustrates his unique gift of spinning everyday events and situations into gripping, disquieting modern fables.

In "The TV and Winston Churchill," a television refuses to air game shows or sports. Instead it broadcasts opera and history, only to find itself abandoned. In "The Knife Act," one friend stabs another, but when the wounded friend seeks retribution the knives disappear. In "The Man and the Moose," hunters unknowingly befriend a moose disguised as a man. Loory's wry distortions hold a fun-house mirror up to average lives. His stories are smart and original while reflecting universally relevant questions: Do I strive for the highest self, regardless of cost? How many invisible barbs have I slung at friends? Am I blinded by fear of those who are different? Loory provides few resolutions. As in life, on that blind path readers must provide the answers for themselves.

Publishers Weekly
The 40 cheerfully ominous stories in this collection feel like collaborations between Tex Avery and Franz Kafka. Each starts with a surreal premise—a man notices a strange hat staring at him, a duck falls in love with a rock, etc.—and sidles along from there. By itself, each sketch is tantalizingly incomplete, but that uneasy wonder is part of Loory's purpose. When these pieces work, as they often do, they invite readers to develop the idea themselves, to use their own imaginations to flesh out characterizations and consequences. Reading several stories in a row might mitigate some of the individual impact, but together they provide a series of glimpses into a world in which all manner of disturbing discoveries and transformations are possible. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

These minimal, surreal confabulations are tiny dramas whittled down to their unadorned emotional core, carrying readers through transformations of mood to striking, often startling and always unexpected epiphanies.

A man is haunted by his awareness of a secret monster sleeping at the bottom of the local pool; when his disguise fails a moose must flee for his life from a sportsmens' party; the sea and a house fall in love with one another and are initially frustrated in their attempts to unite; an octopus finds his solitude and spoon-polishing habit interrupted when his nephews come to visit from the sea; boys crawl into dark places where they face their fears and find light; a father, attempting to save his son from a well, learns to fly. If one story could encapsulate the irrationality that drives this irreducible collection, it would be "On the Way Down: A Story for Ray Bradbury," about a falling man, a play on Bradbury's admonition against pure intellect: "you've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."Loory gives wings to many of these flights of fancy, but their flights are unpredictable and his machinery, deceptively simple, is mysterious.Many flirt with mythology and metaphor, drawing characters into an underworld of phobias, of sex and death and loneliness, allowing them to return enlightened, but the playfulness that permeates Loory's work prevents them from coming off as preachy.Always they entertain with a delightful elasticity of mind, a deep pathos and an infectious sense of the comic aspects of the human condition.These very short stories are all the more impressive in the depth and openness to interpretation they achieve with simple elements and a lack of real characters. Yet despite the fact that the stories are undeveloped, like stick figures in a flip book, Loory uses some sort of magic to elicit strong pathos.

One of a kind: a thoroughly entertaining antidote to rigid thinking and excessive seriousness.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143119500
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/26/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 388,816
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Loory's stories have appeared in publications as diverse as The New Yorker, ESPN the Magazine, Glimmer Train, and World Riot. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Read an Excerpt



She wandered this way and that, this way and that, try¬ing to find a way home. But the sky was too dark, and the rain too fierce; all the girl did was go in circles.
Then, suddenly, there were arms around her. Strong arms—good strong arms. And they picked the girl up and carried her away.
When she woke, she was lying in bed.

It was a warm bed—very warm—by a roaring fire. The blankets were soft, and she was dry. She looked around the room. There were paintings on the walls.
There was a hot cup of tea on the nightstand.
Hello? called the girl. Hello? Hello?
A young man appeared in the doorway. He looked down at the girl with a kind, quiet smile.
Feel better? he said.
And she did.


The girl stayed with the man for quite a long time, until she had all her strength back.
I guess it's time for me to go home, she said, and started to gather her clothes.
But when she got to the door, she saw the rain was still falling. If anything, it was falling even harder. So she took off her clothes again, and went back to bed, and lay in the man's arms a little longer.
This went on for many, many years, and eventually the girl grew very old.
And then one day she discovered on the wall by the door the switch that turned the rain on and off.
She stood there staring at the beautiful day outside, and then down at the simple little switch. She listened as the birds flew by the window, singing.
And then she turned and went back to bed.

In the night, that night, the man woke up.
Did the rain stop? he said. I dreamt it did.
And the girl put her arms around the man and held him tight.
It may have, she said. But it's all right.

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Interviews & Essays

Some have described your stories as "contemporary fables" and "post-modern fairy tales." Did you set out to invigorate these classic forms of storytelling? What is appealing to you about these traditions?
I grew up reading fables and fairy tales (as well as anything I could find about ghosts, monsters, unsolved mysteries, astronauts and aliens), so it doesn't surprise me when that kind of stuff finds its way onto the page when I write, but it's certainly not intentional... I just write whatever comes out. In my mind, I'm just writing stories, not fables (and definitely not fairy tales (not that I have anything against them, but there are no princesses or castles in my book)).
Really, I think what I do is closer in feel to The Twilight Zone than anything else, and most heavily indebted to writers of weird fiction like Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and H.P. Lovecraft. But I guess because they're written so sparely, they come across as a throwback to another time. And I have always really loved Aesop's fables, so I don't mind the comparison.
Your stories are marked by a highly imaginative spirit, and sense of wonder. Do you think that your stories are appealing to children? What did you read as a child, and do you think this has influenced you as a writer?
I hope that my stories appeal to children! And I'm often told that they do ("The House on the Cliff and the Sea," apparently, is a big favorite with them). Many of the stories are pretty dark though— not that there's a lot of sex and violence or anything— but the themes tend to be existential, and often involve matters of life and death. But that was the way all my favorite books were when I was little... Roald Dahl's Danny The Champion of the World, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lord of the Rings, even the Narnia books... I think kids know a lot more about darkness than we like to think they do. (Probably because they are essentially powerless and the world is still new to them and strange.)
The collection is a mix of daydreams and nightmares, as the title suggests. Do you think the distinction between the two is immutable, or is there some crossover?
There's definitely crossover. I never really thought of it as a collection of nightmares and dreams, though the stories definitely have surreal qualities. I think of dreams and nightmares as fragmentary and confused, while my stories are all classically structured.
The title actually was intended to describe not so much the stories themselves as the emotional disposition of the reader... i.e., they are stories meant to be read in times of uncertainty and confusion, but also sometimes when one is happy.
In addition to being a writer, you have worn another hat, and worked as a screenwriter. Do you think your work in film has had an impact on your writing? Are there films or filmmakers you love that you think have influenced your work?
Without a doubt, screenwriting had a huge impact on me; it taught me to think dramatically— on the level of story instead of simply sentences— and beyond that, to always keep the reader visualizing, and to beware the seductions of the abstract.
My favorite filmmakers are many and varied, but my biggest influences would probably be Hitchcock, Howard Hawks (I'm a huge fan of His Girl Friday), Buster Keaton, David Lynch, and Luis Bunuel. Plus all those geniuses over at Warner Brothers cartoons— Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and the rest— who are the guys who really taught me that there are truly no limits in storytelling, and that comedy and horror and drama and satire can all happily co-exist in the same piece (and indeed, support one another).
Who have you discovered lately?
I've actually been having a great year reading-wise; I recently discovered both Javier Marias and Jean Echenoz, two European writers who are diametrical opposites but (perhaps for that reason) inextricably linked in my mind. Marias' A Heart So White nearly drove me crazy when I was reading it, with its constant circling and repetitive, repetitive, repetitive chiseling... but is now etched forever in my mind, like a place I used to live and still dream about. And Echenoz's Ravel was just a delight of a book; even if I weren't a huge fan of the composer already I'm sure the book would have made me one. Just really clean, light, sparkling writing which somehow creates a profound effect.
I've also recently discovered Norman Mailer (I know, I'm behind on a lot of things), and especially enjoyed Tough Guys Don't Dance and An American Dream (both of which were recommended to me by Sarah Rose Etter, author of the brilliant collection Tongue Party, which everyone should immediately buy and read). His The Gospel According to the Son, however... hmmm, not quite so good.
And lastly, though I've always been a Muriel Spark fan— based on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori— I finally made it past those two books to discover she actually wrote a huge number of them! So far I've been through The Driver's Seat and Loitering with Intent... both of which are gleefully murderous little books... and I have a stack of at least seven more sitting on my nightstand raring to go. And the best thing about them is they're all so short! I love a writer who knows when to stop talking.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2011

    Pretty Much Amazing

    This sort of book does not come around very often. You read it quickly. You don't even notice you're reading a profoundly meaningful work. Yet after you put it down, you realize its true potency. It lingers there, not in your hands but in your mind and soul. The characters are strange but familiar. Familiar in the way other people's recounted memories are familiar. The settings are as far away as other dimensions, but as close as your own mind's eye line of sight. Don't let the month go by without reading this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2012

    These stories will stick in your head and change the way you loo

    These stories will stick in your head and change the way you look at ducks and trees and spoons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2011

    Great Collection!

    I really enjoy a good short story collection. I am not a particularly fast reader, so short stories provide the opportunity for me to finish a story or two (or three) in one evening. When I saw the description of Ben Loory's Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, I knew I had to read the book. Just look at that fantastic cover. The design inside the book is equally nice.

    As I read the first couple of stories, I began to sense Loory's style, which I might sum up as short and abrupt. Many of the stories finish out at 3-5 pages. I would finish a story and think, That's it? But what happened? Readers will often have to figure out what the ending of each story means to them. I don't always do so well with this writing style because I like closure. I am still pondering the ending of The Man Who Went to China as I write this review.

    With that said, there are quite a few gems in the collection. My favorites include: The Swimming Pool, The Octopus, The Duck, UFO: A Love Story, The Little Girl and the Balloon, The Afterlife is What You Leave Behind, The Tree, The House on the Cliff and The Sea and The Woman and the Basement.

    The Octopus is my favorite story in the collection. This is the story of an octopus who has moved to the city. His nephews, who live in the sea, come to visit him. They want to see the city, but the octopus realizes that he doesn't leave his apartment very often so he's not sure what to show them. When he drops his nephews off at the sea after their visit, he considers his current life in the city compared to his former life in the sea.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I adored this book. It was hard not to read it all up at once,

    I adored this book. It was hard not to read it all up at once, so I just read a few stories each evening. This book is awesome!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012

    I thought it was a very good book

    I thought it was a very good book

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    Posted December 31, 2011

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