Given the current limits of technology, the best way to escape this reality is to get lost in a great book. And while there’s no greater reading pleasure than getting lost in a novel massive enough to accompany you through the course of several sleepless nights and a charity gala or two, it’s also rather grand to gently pummel one’s imagination with 40 very short and strange stories one after another until you’re a little dizzy from the off-kilter sweetness humanity is capable of.
But where does one find 40 great, very short, strange, sweet (if also sometimes menacing) stories? I, too, wondered this, until I found “Tales of Falling and Flying” by Ben Loory, the second such collection of exactly 40 great, short, strange, sweet stories he’s written. Loory has compared his writing to “an animated version of The Twilight Zone,” and I think it’s a fair comparison.
Take a break from chiseling a list of injustices into your drywall by reading about a squid who falls in love with the sun. The other squids make fun of him for his deformed tentacle and his increasingly desperate attempts to reach the sun. When jumping doesn’t work, the squid realizes he must build a vessel capable of space travel. So, he builds just such a vessel. “The Squid Who Fell in Love With The Sun” is easily one of the most inspiring cephalopods I’ve encountered.
Is mailing poetry to your congressperson making no difference at all? Perhaps you should put the stamps down and read about a man who signs up to join the circus, realizes he’ll need to know how to swim in order to fulfill his duties of swimming with porpoises, and so reconnects with his high school sweetheart (a swim champion). Of course, the circus, accompanied by the police, comes to collect him, and he must go on the run.
Are you embarrassed of your cape? Read “The Cape,” and ponder the wonders your garment may be capable of.
Do you know a chicken that believes itself to be a dodo? Read “The Dodo,” and carefully consider whether it may be a dodo after all.
Are you a young frog trying to get a bird to not eat you? “The Frog and the Bird” has some wisdom to impart.
(The reader will not be surprised to find Loory is heavily influenced by “Aesop’s Fables.”)
There are 35 more of these delightful little bursts of sweet strangeness left for you to discover. If you’ve got the time, it’s worth taking the ride all at once. Let them gently concuss you into other realities. Then later maybe print out a couple stories and mail them to your representative.