Monday, July 4, 2011

Give it to me straight: the unadulterated pleasure of pure story distilled, or my review of Ben Loory's Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the DayStories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 I 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 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 for good or ill.

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. If I’ve intrigued you at all, I’d recommend you pre-order**, so the book is in your hot little hand as soon as possible – 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.

** book arrives in stores on July 26, 2011.

in Canada to pre-order from amazon, click here
in the US to pre-order from amazon in book format (they also have kindle), click here

View all my reviews


  1. Damn, Mo. That's almost as good as one of Ben's stories.

  2. thanks for the commment and compliment, swanny! i wanted my review to reflect the joy that ben's stories have given me -- how they make me feel, since the stories are so simply told, i didn't want to reveal too much about them in their essentials, since that is half the fun of reading them! i can't wait until we all have the book on our shelves. i really believe it should be an essential title for everyone who loves stories. in fact, i might lean mine up against nine stories for a while, so it recognizes for itself that it's in good company. :)

    p.s. let's go to the dork next year, shall we? you are SO RIGHT that you have to come to one, some year, and ideally it will be when i am there too. and since i seem to be even-yeared girl, i'm going to plan to see you next year, wherever it might be. actually now i remember i was also having fantasies about a euro-dork next year, where i would go and visit martyn, and lara, and maren. BUT STILL!!! NEXT YEAR!! :)