It’s a deceptive little book.  Not too thick; it’s compact and fits easily into your bag.  Just pull it out while you wait at the car wash or in the subway.  Something to pass the time.  

But that’s what it wants you to think.

Soon you will be swept away into dimensions where a TV set can write an opera, a man and a moose are good friends, and an octopus is named Harley. Also, Harley likes to drink tea.  Yet it makes sense. None of it is as fantastical as it sounds.  Author Ben Loory‘s tone and style are so matter-of-fact that the reader hardly blinks.  The stories are so darn sure of themselves that the reader doesn’t bother to question it.  

Loory has a few outings under his belt — he’s already appeared in The New Yorker, The Antioch Review,  Danse Macabre and dozens of others.  But something that sets these tales apart is a sense that they belong together.  Their style is simple and less wordy than previous stories.  Not that his writing is flowery by any means, but Stories… is different.  The characters don’t have names (well, except for the octopi, of course). They have little if any physical description.  They are only important as puppets or stick figures in a diorama.

They are generally unwitting pawns to a skewed universe. In fact, his stories are more like fables. And many of them are very short – just a page or two.  But there is a mysterious world packed into those few words.  And like an episode of the classic Twilight Zone, a meaningful change of perspective that gives new context to the story just when it seems you have figured it out.  Yet there is no thin layer of American cheese that seems to appear in many of Serling’s episodes.  Loory’s tales are clear and simple.  And yet neither simple nor clear-cut.

Did I mention it is deceptive?

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Thank you to Lindsay and the folks at Penguin for the review copy.  This book is also a featured title in a series of original fiction called Penguin Makes Paperbacks.

ISBN 9780143119500 | 224 pages | 26 Jul 2011 | Penguin | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 – AND UP 

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