A triptych of exquisitely crafted fables from miniaturist Loory (The Baseball Player and the Walrus, 2015, etc.)
For dedicated fans of Loory’s delicately constructed vignettes, this may be a perfect follow-up to his starred debut. Here, he’s divided the collection into three sections of 13 stories each, plus a final, slightly longer tribute, “Elmore Leonard.” His stories always begin simply enough: a person, sometimes an animal, and occasionally a personified element of nature, does something, and consequently something else happens. But then Loory makes some unexpected move that twists the story, often wryly. A man inherits a sword, and six pages later his wife shoots a man on their front lawn. A child has a very civil discussion with the monster that lives in his closet. We learn that War and Peace have a terrible domestic relationship. An older woman strikes up a casual relationship with Death in one story. Elsewhere, we meet a man who lives in a field of doors and a woman intermittently lost in a maze. Sometimes there’s anthropomorphism in stories that recall David Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (2010). A dodo, long thought extinct, stands up for his true character in the opener, while a squid falls in love with the sun at the start of the next section. That’s without even getting into the hilarious encounter between a slightly stupid ostrich and some confused aliens Even when Loory attacks tropes, he manages to undermine them, as in “Zombies”: “The zombies are slaughtered—they’re a bunch of idiots. The whole thing’s pretty anticlimactic.” Often, he hits just the right beat at the right moment, as in the story about a man who wants to learn to write. “You lie, he whispered. And the writer smiled. And that, he said, is exactly how it goes.”
Delightfully disarming stories for readers seeking a plunge down the rabbit hole.