I was browsing through my favorite small indie bookstore (Farley’s in New Hope, PA; it’s magnificent) when the cover and title of this book captured my eye.
A book displaying peaceful nighttime ocean scene, mildly disrupted by the UFO beaming a ray of light into the ocean and the unmistakeable orange tentacle grasping at the eye from the foreground, Stories for Nighttime and Some For The Day seems part children’s adventure tales, part foreboding mysteries, and altogether oddly comforting… reminiscent of covers pulled up to the chin, glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, and worn teddy bears.
The guts of the book mirror the atmosphere of the cover in a rare, wonderful way.
Ben Loory writes often about “a man” or “the woman,” rarely using names for his characters. This makes them at once utterly relatable to the reader and somewhat detached in their vagueness. The characters are often mysteriously motivated in ways unclear to them, as they seek fulfillment and purpose in their lives–be that found through destroying books or lifting archaic shields from their museum displays. Animals can be befriended, but they’re also engaged by their own troubles–existential crises effected by the humans around them, or difficulties within their own communities.
All of the stories carry some surreal element. Many of them confront death, love and loss with a sensible, matter-of-fact tone, even when that actual event taking place would rarely be considered matter-of-fact at all.
Like the characters in the collection, I’m not completely aware of the inner motivations that carried me into this book so powerfully. I picked it up, felt blindly around for a nearby stool, sat in a corner and forgot about the bookstore entirely until 80 pages later, when I realized that it was probably going to close sometime in the near future. I finished the book that night.
I honestly have a hard time saying exactly how I feel about this book. I know that I loved it. I know that it brought tears to my eyes at some points, made me smirk at others, and completely baffled me at still more. I recommended it to many of my friends, and have heard a range of opinions in return.
The words are not dense or difficult. The characters are strangers. The book drags you in and then relinquishes you gently, giving you a kind pat on the head and a sense as though you have just woken up from a foray into a world where things are both deeper and less complex–less and more infinite at once. The book plays with parallels. It is simply written, and yet I am still trying to understand exactly how it held me.