Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory
Penguin, 2017; 224 PP
Reviewed by Guia Cortassa
Less is more. Ben Loory doesn't need long, convoluted wordplays to get to core of his stories. Just as in a children game, it only takes a simple activity and a character to unleash the narrative of his fiction. His new collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, is a great example of how Samuel Beckett's absurd, tragicomic Minimalism can still have a great impact on contemporary literature, especially when, as is this case, is mixed with the ancient genre of the fable—“As far as I’m concerned, Aesop’s Fables is the greatest book ever written[,]" the Los Angeles-based writer confessed to Paul Semel in a recent interview.
It doesn't matter if it's a human being, an extinct animal, a historical figure or a monster carrying it out, you never know where the (apparently) mundane event that sparks the action might lead, but, all the times, you will feel something tickling your deepest thoughts, as if some invisible waves carried subliminal messages into your mind—which is, for sure, how fables work, but here the moral is subtler and way less explicit than in the older days. It's in the sense of suspension that you find yourself in at the end of each piece that you'll discover your head pondering over words that weren't on the page but behind it. Tales of identity, belonging, self-awareness and self-recognition impossible to put down and stop reading, where names aren't necessary for their everyman protagonists to express their existence and, for the reader, to follow their road either to the gutter or to the stars. Dystopia, horror, sci-fi, fantasy: Loory’s stories can fit in all of those tags yet none is enough to define them—and who would find that important, anyway? What’s essential, is that each of them still linger in the cloud of our thoughts long after the book has been finished and closed, as every fortuitous, well taught lesson should do.