Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, by Ben Loory

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the DayStories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this book is definitely short and you can read it in one day without any serious effort...I don't recommend trying to finish in one day. When it says "Stories for Nighttime" it means it. These are like small, modern little fairy tales and you need a second to digest each one or they all start to blur together in one heap of endless: person obsesses about object to the detriment/benefit of person's life.

The stories themselves are sometimes sweet, sometimes creepy, and sometimes both at the same time. There are some unique, impactful images throughout.

My only real issue with this collection is a strange one and might not make sense at first.

It's the way the story looks on the page.

Loory uses a lot of white space. White space tends to pick up the pace of a story -- after all, the amount of words on a page can be used to determine how long you're gonna spend reading it. More words = more time. Less words = less time. At least, that's the general formula I use.

However, the white space used in these stories is more akin to how white space is used in poetry. White space in poetry = you're pausing a lot and slowing way down.

Here's an excerpt from "The Book" which is the opening story from Stories as spaced by Loory (and as can closely be approximated by Blogger formatting):




The woman becomes famous for opposing the book. She even writes a book of her own. Her book cries out for the destruction of the first book.
        In answer, the first book's sales jump.
        The woman is frantic. She doesn't know what to do. She feels like she's going insane.
        And then one day on the street, a man comes up and spits in the woman's face.


The woman stands there -- shocked paralyzed. She hadn't realized everyone hated her. She turns and runs sobbing all the way home. She locks the door and collapses on the floor.
        She crawls into the bedroom on her hands and knees and hides under the blankets.
        She huddles in the darkness all night long, her hands over her eyes, crying.





All of the stories are organized and broken this way.

The way the sentences break off into their own paragraphs and the amount of space between paragraph-length sections make me think more of poetry than prose...and, unfortunately, it makes me think of weak poetry because the images don't oppose each other as much as line breaks are designed to do -- the sentences are just a continuation of the same thought without anything surprising in it.

And it occurs to me that I would enjoy the stories more, if the paragraph sections were smashed together prose-poetry like. Then it reads dreamy. Now, I know reviews should not actually rewrite stuff, but I think offering a contrasting structure illustrates my odd, perhaps singular frustration with this collection (no words have been changed, only spacing and indention):

The woman becomes famous for opposing the book. She even writes a book of her own. Her book cries out for the destruction of the first book. In answer, the first book's sales jump. The woman is frantic. She doesn't know what to do. She feels like she's going insane. And then one day on the street a man comes up and spits in the woman's face.

The woman stands there -- shocked, paralyzed. She hadn't realized everyone hated her. She turns and runs sobbing all the way home. She locks the door and collapses on the floor. She crawls into the bedroom on her hands and knees and hides underneath the blankets. She huddles in the darkness all night long, her hands over her eyes, crying.


What happens there is I, as the reader, get to find what is meaningful, rather than having line/sentences that try to emphasize it for me. As is, it's sort of like having italics telling you how to read a word. Sometimes it's okay. Doing it every time makes it lose it's impact. After a while, the stories felt monotonous to me.

So I highly recommend taking this collection slow, one story at a time, and then you have a good set of bedtime stories.

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