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.)
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.
Read an Excerpt
THE GIRL IN THE STORM
THERE ONCE WAS A GIRL WHO WAS LOST IN A STORM.
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 IN THE STORM
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.