Tales of Falling and Flying: Not my cup of spacefaring squid

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Tales of Falling and Flying Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 5, 2017 by Ben Loory  (Author)Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory fantasy book reviewsTales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

Ben Loory’s collection Tales of Falling and Flying (2017) falls into that category of “just not for me” books, meaning this will be a relatively brief take on the collection. It’s the sort of writing where I can see where some people would enjoy it, can note the author’s talent, can acknowledge the wit and bright originality, but overall it just doesn’t do it for me. In this case, it begins with my being a tough audience for short stories, as I tend to prefer full, rich immersion in story and character — aspects too often lacking in most stories I’ve found. Loory’s tales double-down on this as they’re all pretty short, not quite Lydia Davis short but nearly: almost 40 stories in just over 200 pages. So it’s basically in and out and on to the next.

That’s not to say some of these stories don’t have concepts or endings that you might linger over. A few do have a nice punch to them at moments, and some sneak up on you with a surprising level of depth or insight. And as noted, there’s a lot of creativity here in terms of premises: a sloth going off to find a job, a squid trying to fly to the sun, a pair of aliens whose First Contact is with an ostrich, and so on. And Loory’s stories veer off from these clever premises in often surprising ways (none of which I’ll detail so as to save the surprise). But while they were enjoyable enough, and clever, cute at times, funny at others, and as mentioned had the occasional “let me think more about that” moment, none really struck me or grabbed me in narratively, the style/language never really startled me (I didn’t highlight any lines), and they had a bit of a sameness to them despite the out-there concepts. To be fair, one would probably go a long way toward ameliorating that last issue simply by not reading the collection straight through as I did. Still, I can’t say that I’ll remember any of these stories for any length of time beyond the funny set-ups in a few of them.

If you’re a fan of minimalism, Davis, or absurdism, then you might want to pick Tales of Falling and Flying up and check out the first few stories in the store or library to see what you think. If you’re a fan of writers like George Saunders or Steven Millhauser (as I am), and think you might like their stories greatly streamlined and a bit lighter (as I did not), you also might want to give a shot. I found these to be lesser tales (though I’d be interested in reading a longer story by Loory), but I can see how others might thoroughly enjoy them, if not all at once.

Publication date: September 5, 2017. “Ben Loory’s stories are little gifts, strange and moving and wonderfully human. I devoured this book in one sitting.” —Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A dazzling new collection of stories from the critically acclaimed author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for The Day. Ben Loory returns with a second collection of timeless tales, inviting us to enter his worlds of whimsical fantasy, deep empathy, and playful humor, in the signature voice that drew readers to his highly praised first collection. In stories that eschew literary realism, Loory’s characters demonstrate richly imagined and surprising perspectives, whether they be dragons or swordsmen, star-crossed lovers or long-lost twins, restaurateurs dreaming of Paris or cephalopods fixated on space travel. In propulsive language that brilliantly showcases Loory’s vast imagination, Tales of Falling and Flying expands our understanding of how fiction can work and is sure to cement his reputation as one of the most innovative short-story writers working today.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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2 comments

  1. But, but — space-faring squid!

  2. When it comes to Loory’s short fiction, I can always think of people who might enjoy it, but I’m not on the list.

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