Thoughts for the Nighttime

Just finished Ben Loory’s Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day. I thought it an odd recommendation, but I was eager to please the person who had suggested it so I dove in.

I’m not good with portents. I have matured into a brutal woman. Subtlety annoys me. But Loory is good at it (or as he might say, he tries and tries and tries to be good. But it is hard. And no one believes him. And then he runs, panting, home to his bed. He wakes up when the cold moonlight breaks across his frightened face. He wanders out into the darkness. And wanders far. It is hard to wander. But he is gone.)

It’s almost Noam Chomsky. He puts nouns and adjectives and sometimes lots and lots of nouns and adjectives in a row. And he hints at meaning. Lovely hints. The boarding house. The spittoon. The spoons. But.

I suspect he is a poet, but these days who can really go to a party in LA and say “I am a poet”? To me, these are all poems. Lots of internal rhyme. Or maybe he has created something new altogether…poetic fiction…fictive poetry? Unfortunately, as a literary form, it feels like a bait and switch. I wanted stories, not poems posing as stories. He obviously fancies provocation, so I can only assume that is intentional. He went to Harvard, after all. Isn’t everything a Harvard graduate does intentional? And for me, feeling like the transparency of that intention lacked subtlety, he lost points.

On the other hand, the problem might be my own ravenous nature. I devoured this collection, rather than savored it is I should have done. Each story is so beautifully wrought, but as is often the case with plenty, it is hard to appreciate subtlety in its midst. By the end, I felt like I was carrying a heavy burlap sack full of Hope diamonds. A precious burden, and one I am still unwilling to set down.

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