Pinpointing precisely all of
the things that are wrong with Ben Loory’s collection of short stories is
difficult to do without writing one of my own, but a reader’s experience with the collection, Stories for
Nighttime and Some For the Day, can
be summed up thusly: the book leaves you with sore eyes. Not because the language
is particularly lush or dense, but because of the number of times Loory’s
stories inspire eye rolls of disappointment and desperation.
The collection of 40 short
stories may as well be a bound guide called Stories You’d Never Want to Read
Before Bed, During the Day or Ever.
Loory writes like a forgetful middle schooler, dutifully remembering to spread
plot points throughout the stories under the mistaken assumption that a bland,
connecting “and then” will suffice.
According to the back cover,
in this book Loory has attempted to write a set of “contemporary fables,” in
which otherworldly events and characters are allowed and even encouraged. But
Loory doesn’t manage to make these characters acceptable or understandable. He
doesn’t give his characters any kind of depth of personality or thought (95
percent of the characters in the stories are named simply “The Man” or “The
Woman”), so the journeys they take are supremely inconsequential. Since the
reader never has a chance to connect with the characters—a result of Loory’s
damagingly vague writing style—we just don’t care what happens to them.
In that vein, the things
that happen to the characters are so absurd and bland (yes, the only notable
thing Loory does in any of his stories is make them simultaneously outrageous
and boring) that it leaves the reader empty save for a foggy sense of anger at
having been put through such a cheesy, clichéd literary ordeal.
Even worse is the fact that
each of Loory’s stories is rife with metaphorical, half-baked attempts at
conveying a universal message about life, people, politics or whatever. It’s
pointless to wonder why Loory finds his own views on the mysteries of life so
important he feels compelled to assail us with 40 of them in one place, but
it’s certain that the effort of unsheathing one’s critical reading machete to
hack through the legions of weeds trapping the moral in the story would be met
only with disappointment at the moral’s conventionality.
not breaking any literary barriers, he’s breaking literary wind right in the
reader’s face. And the polite thing to do when one has broken wind in public is
apologize. This book warrants an apology for draining time and energy from its
unfortunate readers—Loory should have included that in his acknowledgments.