Tales of Falling and Flying

Ben Loory (Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day and picture book The Baseball Player and the Walrus) is a whimsical fabulist, with an occasional dark streak. His stories are quite short; his second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, includes 39 stories arranged in a triptych of 13 each, plus a tribute to Elmore Leonard. In typical Loory ("rhymes with story") fashion, the approach to the tribute comes in low and sideways, with a spin.

His stories often feature loss, dissociation, dreams of death, the agony of not being seen. In "The Dodo," one dies but gets back up, running around insisting he's a dodo but is ignored, until he makes a stand for his true self. One of the sweetest stories is "The Sloth": the creature decides to get a job, and after being turned down by various animals, heads into the city. He tries so hard, "but the fact was, he was just very slow." His solution is both practical and delightful.

Old age and regret is succinctly summed up in "The Candelabra"; a man begins to lose parts of his body in "Missing" until he becomes pure spirit in search of himself; in "Zombies," finally, the undead are seen as the idiots they are; "The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun" (and longs to reach it) is magical.

Ben Loory's stories can be poignant, lyrical, witty or puzzling--sometimes all in the same tale. Whatever they are, they're strange and strangely moving. --Marilyn Dahl

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