My 2017 in Reading and Writing

My second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, was released by Penguin in September. It got a great review from NPR, a starred review in Kirkus, and was chosen as one of The Paris Review Staff’s Favorite Books of 2017.

I was profiled on the front page of the LA Times Book Section and interviewed by Steph Cha at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I appeared on OtherPpl with Brad Listi and went to the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where I bought a great sweatshirt and ate some delicious cookies. My story “The Monster” appeared on Selected Shorts, read by John Cameron Mitchell (a.k.a. HEDWIG!).  Tales of Falling and Flying went into a second printing.

My book tour took me up and down the east and west coasts, as well as to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado (where I first read H.P. Lovecraft and P.G. Wodehouse when I was little). While I was there, I stopped off at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop and gave a guest lecture and drank a lot of coffee.

I signed with Rich Green at ICM to handle film & TV rights, and with Jessica Craig at Craig Literary to handle foreign rights.

I continued to teach short story writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and spent the summer up in the mountains, teaching adults and high schoolers at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program in Idyllwild, CA.

I had eleven stories published in magazines and journals in 2017, including in TASTE, Fusion, The New York Tyrant, The Sewanee Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Hobart, Lithub, and Eleven Eleven. I also had stories accepted by Post Road, The Kenyon Review, and A Public Space; looking forward to seeing those in 2018.

As for reading: it was a good year. I read 156 books, and only hated a few of them. My favorite by far was The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume One by Robert Caro, which my dad had been telling me to read for 25 years. Well, it turned out he was right. I’ve found that I can’t do this book justice by talking about it, so all I will say is this: I didn’t know a book could be so good.

Beyond that, I loved Scott McClanahan’s The Sarah Bookbut I love everything Scott McClanahan writes, so that was no surprise. Other favorites: Colonel Rutherford’s Colt by Lucius Shepard (which really needs to be republished with a better cover, for god’s sake), Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg, Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler (her whole Patternmaster series is amazing), We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser, The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (probably the most fun I had reading a book all year), Submission by Michel Houellebecq, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Abbot Awaits by Chris Bachelder, Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (the best book of interlocking stories I’ve read since J Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest), Outline and Transit by Rachel Cusk, Behold the Void and Sacculina by Philip Fracassi, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (with a new forward by Jenny McPhee), Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott, Use of Weapons by Iain Banks, They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel (a picture book which made me inexplicably burst into tears at the end), Underground Airlines by Ben Winters, Acorn by Yoko Ono (which I liked even more than Grapefruit, if that’s possible), Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (which is completely bonkers btw), and Work by Bud Smith– which, besides being hilarious, heartbreaking, and almost frighteningly brilliant, turned out to also be the first (and only) book I’ve ever read that actually mentioned me in it. I existed in the book! How crazy is that?

What else? I also really enjoyed For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records by Brian Slagel & Mark Eglinton (though, to be honest, I will read and enjoy anything about 80s thrash metal), and Aaron Burch’s Stephen King’s The Body, which taught me not a whole lot about Stephen King’s “The Body,” but quite a bit about Aaron Burch’s life and childhood, and, by extension and comparison, my own. I also had a great time rereading The Dark Country by Dennis Etchison, which I hadn’t read in years, and which turned out to be even scarier and more beautifully written than I remembered. I continued my journey through Richard Stark’s Parker novels, particularly enjoying The Seventh and The Rare Coin Score. I read three books by Marcy Dermansky (Twins, Bad Marie, and The Red Car) and three books by Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling), loved them all, and look forward to reading everything else they ever write.

My favorite stories I read this year were: “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events” by Kevin Moffett, “Toda Luna, Todo Año” by Lucia Berlin, “Mandala” by Philip Fracassi, “Soldier of Fortune” by Bret Anthony Johnston, “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud, “Zolaria” by Caitlin Horrocks, “The Nimble Men” by Glen Hirshberg, “It Only Comes Out At Night” and “It Will Be Here Soon” by Dennis Etchison, “The Siege at Whale Cay” by Meghan Mayhew Bergman, “After the People Lights Have Gone Off” by Stephen Graham Jones, “The Grammarian’s Five Daughters” by Eleanor Arnason, “My Flannel Knickers” by Leonora Carrington, “The Fall River Axe Murders” by Angela Carter, and “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser.

If anyone wants to see everything I read during the year, you’re welcome to friend me on Goodreads.

My reading resolution for 2018 is: I will no longer force myself to finish books I don’t like.

Fuck ’em.

On a personal note, I also went to Sweden and Finland for a week in 2017, and had a great time! I took precisely one photo. Here it is:

Sweden and Finland.jpg

Happy 2018, everybody! Let’s hope it is full of wonders.

Tales of Falling and Flying

My second collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, will be out from Penguin on September 5th:


“Ben’s stories are little gifts, strange and moving and wonderfully human. I devoured this book in one sitting.” —Ransom Riggs

“Who the hell is this guy? What happened to make this brain? These are the questions you’ll ask after Ben Loory’s Tales of Falling and Flying. Loory is the psychedelic Aesop of our modern age, the king of talking birds and frogs, characters named war and peace, the Apuleuis of the internet generation. His words are full of swords and wings. Get ready. They’ll cut you. They’ll make you fly.” —Scott McClanahan

“Russell Edson’s new protege, or Steven Millhauser, distilled into tea. Meet, or re-meet Ben Loory, whose preposterous, friendly stories can’t help but charm. They are so bizarrely readable they don’t even feel like they’re made of words.” —Aimee Bender

“This darn book is like receiving a sword in the mail or finding a maze in the kitchen or a squid who fell in love with the sun or a dragon in the backyard; it’s confusing at first and then the next thing happens.” —Ron Carlson

“To read a Ben Loory story is to slip through a portal into an adjacent dimension. To learn—with brevity and clarity—the laws of this universe next door, new rules of logic and contradiction and truth. And, in the end, to be left with the disturbing and wondrous feeling of having never left home at all.” —Charles Yu

“These tiny off-kilter fairy tales, equal parts Beckett and Twilight Zone, will amply suit surrealistic seniors and twisted teens alike. Perfect for reading on strange beaches and by oddly-shaped swimming pools. Fits right in your pocket or purse for emergency doses of the charming and weird.” –Janet Fitch

“Parables, dark fables, quirky flash fictions—call them what you will, Ben Loory has perfected the form and in Tales of Falling and Flying proves once again he can disturb a little and entertain a lot. Easily read, not easily forgotten.” —Jeff VanderMeer

“Ben Loory is a wonder. I’d like to curl up inside his marvelous head and canoodle with a besotted squid, swallow a tiny dragon, levitate with Death and fall in love with the Eiffel Tower, and after reading these sublime stories—slyly funny, melancholy and deeply weird—I suppose I have, and it was fantastic.” —Elissa Schappell

“One of my favorite writers, smart, original Ben Loory is almost impossible to describe. Like Bruno Schultz, if Shultz had been born to a left-handed Little League coach in Short Hills, NJ? Like Lydia Davis, if she’d been hatched from an egg? Like listening to a conversation between Betty Davis and Miles Davis outside the house where Amy Winehouse died? Like listening to Mick and Keef not talk about Altamont? Probably there is a war going on somewhere, but these cool, dazzling little tales will never let on.” —Peter Straub

“Ben Loory’s stories are like perfect kōans cracked from inside the world’s smartest fortune cookie; funny, crunchy, and irresistible.” —Mark Haskell Smith

“Delightfully disarming stories for readers seeking a plunge down the rabbit hole.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Pre-order Tales of Falling and Flying now on Indiebound or Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Or add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

What I read in 2016

Well, it was a good year for reading– at least partially because I got rid of the internet. I read 136 books, I think? Though I’m probably forgetting a couple.

A few of my favorites (not including books by people I know): The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, My Lord Bag of Rice: New and Selected Stories by Carol Bly, Patternmaster by Octavia Butler, A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories by Ron Carlson, About Writing by Samuel Delany, The U.S.A. Trilogy by John Dos Passos, The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, Immobility and Father of Lies by Brian Evenson, The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century edited by Tony Hillerman & Otto Penzler, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies by John Langan, The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette, The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami, Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper by Art & Laurie Pepper, The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard, American Fantastic Tales, Volume 1: Poe to the Pulps edited by Peter Straub, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, and Cockfighter by Charles Willeford.

A few of my favorite stories: “Good and Bad” by Lucia Berlin, “The Tomcat’s Wife” by Carol Bly, “Golden Baby” by Alice Brown, “Amnesty” by Octavia Butler, “The Moment of Decision” by Stanley Ellin, “Black Bark” by Brian Evenson, “The Prelate’s Commission” by Jeffrey Ford, “The Gutting of Couffignal” by Dashiell Hammett, “You Become the Neighborhood” by Glen Hirshberg, “The Music Copyist” by Spencer Holst, “Vintage Season” by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore, “The Wide, Carnivorous Sky” by John Langan, “The Faery Handbag” by Kelly Link, “Sleep” by Haruki Murakami, “Hippocampus” by Adam Nevill, “Inconstant Moon” by Larry Niven, and pretty much every single story in the collection A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson.

My least favorite book I read this year was The Players and the Game by Julian Symons, which I read because it was on the H.R.F. Keating list of the 100 Best Mysteries of All Time. I read a lot of books off that list, and got more and more confused, until I finally decided that whoever H.R.F. Keating is, our tastes are Very Different. I do, on the other hand, highly recommend The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, edited by Hillerman & Penzler, which was nothing but a joy from beginning to end.

Reading goals for next year: more stories, fewer novels, lots of non-fiction.

Anyway, here’s the whole list:

Alling, Meredith. Sing the Song
Allingham, Margery. The Tiger in the Smoke
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey
Bachelder, Chris. The Throwback Special
Baldwin, James. Another Country
Banks, Iain M. The Player of Games
Bardin, John Franklin. Devil Take the Blue-Tail Fly
Bardin, John Franklin. The Deadly Percheron
Barron, Laird, ed. Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol. 1
Barron, Laird. The Croning

Beatty, Paul. The Sellout
Bellow, Saul. The Adventures of Augie March
Blackwood, Algernon. The Complete John Silence Stories
Blake, Nicholas. The Private Wound
Bloch, Robert. The Dead Beat
Bly, Carol. My Lord Bag of Rice: New and Selected Stories
Brand, Christiana. Green for Danger
Brown, Fredric. Here Comes a Candle
Brown, Fredric. His Name Was Death
Brown, Fredric. The Fabulous Clipjoint

Brown, Fredric. The Far Cry
Butler, Octavia. Bloodchild and Other Stories
Butler, Octavia. Kindred
Butler, Octavia. Patternmaster
Butler, Robert Olen, and Masih, Tara, eds. The Best Small Fictions 2015
Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead
Carlson, Ron. A Kind of Flying
Castro, Adam-Troy. Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories
Chandler, Raymond. The High Window
Chase, Joan. During the Reign of the Queen of Persia

Chaze, Elliott. Black Wings Has My Angel
Clarke, Arthur C. The Fountains of Paradise
Cline, Emma. The Girls
Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone
Compton-Burnett, Ivy. The Mighty and Their Fall
Cross, Amanda. Death in a Tenured Position
Crumley, James. The Last Good Kiss
Datlow, Ellen, ed. The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4
Datlow, Ellen, ed. The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 8
De Camp, L Sprague, and F Pratt. The Incomplete Enchanter

Delany, Samuel. About Writing
Delany, Samuel. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Delany, Samuel. The Ballad of Beta-2
Delany, Samuel. The Jewels of Aptor
Dickinson, Peter. The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest
Didion, Joan. Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Dos Passos, John. The 42nd Parallel
Dos Passos, John. 1919
Dos Passos, John. The Big Money
Dunsany, Lord. The King of Elfland’s Daughter

Dunsany, Lord. Time and the Gods
Ellin, Stanley. The Specialty of the House: The Complete Mystery Stories 1948-1978
Eustis, Helen. The Horizontal Man
Evenson, Brian. A Collapse of Horses
Evenson, Brian. Altmann’s Tongue
Evenson, Brian. Father of Lies
Evenson, Brian. Immobility
Evenson, Brian. Last Days
Everett, Percival. I Am Not Sidney Poitier
Farrell, James T. Young Lonigan

Fleming, Joan. Young Man, I Think You’re Dying
Ford, Jeffrey. A Natural History of Hell
Ford, Jeffrey. Crackpot Palace
Gordimer, Nadine. The Late Bourgeois World
Hamsun, Knut. Growth of the Soil
Hansen, Joseph. Skinflick
Hartwell, David, ed. The World Treasury of Science Fiction
Heinlein, Robert. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Hempel, Amy. Reasons to Live
Hillerman, Tony, and Otto Penzler, eds. The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

Himes, Chester. A Rage in Harlem
Himes, Chester. Blind Man With a Pistol
Holst, Spencer. The Language of Cats and Other Stories
Houllebecq, Michel. Platform
Houston, Pam. Cowboys Are My Weakness
Hubbard, L Ron. Final Blackout
James, P.D. The Black Tower
Johnson, Adam. Fortune Smiles
Jones, Stephen Graham. Mongrels
King, Stephen. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Langan, John. The Fisherman
Langan, John. The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies
Leckie, Ann. Ancillary Justice
Link, Kelly. Magic for Beginners
MacDonald, John D. The Green Ripper
Mamatas, Nick. I Am Providence
Manchette, Jean-Patrick. The Mad and the Bad
McClanahan, Scott. The Incantations of Daniel Johnston
McKillip, Patricia. Ombria in Shadow
McMurtry, Larry. All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers

Millar, Margaret. Beast in View
Millar, Margaret. Beyond This Point are Monsters
Mirrlees, Hope. Lud-in-the-Mist
Moorcock, Michael. The Black Corridor
Moore, Lorrie. Self-Help
Morrell, David. The Totem
Murakami, Haruki. The Elephant Vanishes
Murphy, Pat. The Falling Woman
Nevill, Adam. The Ritual
Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Sympathizer

O’Hara, John. The Lockwood Concern
Olmstead, Robert. Coal Black Horse
Pepper, Art & Laurie. Straight Life: The Art Pepper Story
Pohl, Frederick. Jem
Powers, Tim. Last Call
Rendell, Ruth. A Judgement in Stone
Ross, Adam. Ladies and Gentlemen
Sayers, Dorothy. The Nine Tailors
Shepard, Lucius. Green Eyes
Shepard, Lucius. The Dragon Griaule

Simenon, Georges. My Friend Maigret
Sims, George. The Last Best Friend
Spillaine, Mickey, and Collins, Max Allan, eds. A Century of Noir: Thirty-Two Classic Crime Stories
Stapledon, Olaf. Last and First Men
Stark, Richard. The Jugger
Stark, Richard. The Man with the Getaway Face
Stark, Richard. The Mourner
Stark, Richard. The Outfit
Stark, Richard. The Score
Stefano, Karen. The Secret Games of Words

Straub, Peter, ed. American Fantastic Tales, Volume 1: Poe to the Pulps
Straub, Peter. Koko
Symons, Julian. The Players and the Game
Tepper, Sheri. Beauty
Tey, Josephine. The Franchise Affair
Tremblay, Paul. A Head Full of Ghosts
Uhnak, Dorothy. The Investigation
Wambaugh, Joseph. The Glitter Dome
Warren, Robert Penn. All the King’s Men
Westlake, Donald. Nobody’s Perfect

White, Ethel Lina. The Wheel Spins (The Lady Vanishes)
Willeford, Charles. Cockfighter
Willeford, Charles. Pick-up
Willingham, Calder. The Gates of Hell
Woolrich, Cornell. Night Has A Thousand Eyes
Wright, Richard. Native Son

What I Read in 2015

I started 2015 with a resolution: To read no more than 52 books. Unfortunately, I went a little over, but hey, nobody got hurt.

The best book I read this year, by far, was Doctor Benjamin Franklin’s Dream America, by Damien Ober. Just the most fun I’ve had reading a book in years. I read it twice in succession. Haven’t done that since W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, back in 2001. Still can’t believe this book doesn’t have an American publisher. YOU GUYS ARE A BUNCH OF DOLTS.

Beyond that, a couple of favorites: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Axiomatic by Greg Egan, The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante, The Delicate Prey and Other Stories by Paul Bowles, Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish, The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen, Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren, The Map and the Territory by Michel Houllebecq, Murgunstrumm and Others by Hugh B. Cave, and The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (which is probably the book I’ve most yammered on about to people– it’s just endlessly fascinating).

The best story I read this year was “The Doctor,” by Andre Dubus, which I found in his collection Separate Flights, which I read because I loved his story “The Fat Girl” in The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories— which also contained a wonderful story called “Talk of Heroes” by Carol Bly, who I’d never even heard of before! Then there was “The Thing About Shapes to Come” by Adam-Troy Castro, which just stunned me in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, plus “I, Dreamer” from The Best of Walter Miller, Jr., “Into Darkness” from Greg Egan’s Axiomatic (which should totally be a multi-billion-dollar blockbuster movie by now, what’s the hold up?), and both “The Delicate Prey” and “A Distant Episode” by Paul Bowles (both of which will probably haunt me forever).

The worst book I read this year was Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. Good Lord. That was your last chance, Thomas Pynchon.

Anyway, here’s the full list:

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits
Anderson, Poul. The Broken Sword
Anderson, Poul. Three Hearts and Three Lions
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale
Baldwin, James. Go Tell It on the Mountain
Barnes, Julian. The Sense of an Ending
Barth, John. Lost in the Funhouse
Bear, Greg. Eon
Bloom, Amy. Come to Me
Bolt, Ranjit. A Lion was Learning to Ski

Bowles, Jane. Two Serious Ladies
Bowles, Paul. The Delicate Prey and Other Stories
Bradbury, Ray. The October Country
Braunbeck, Gary. Coffin County
Braunbeck, Gary. In Silent Graves
Brown, Fredric. Martians, Go Home
Campbell, Ramsey. The Parasite
Carlson, Ron. Ron Carlson Writes a Story
Carr, John Dickson. The Crooked Hinge
Carr, John Dickson. The Hollow Man

Cave, Hugh. Murgunstrumm and Others
Clarke, Arthur C. A Fall of Moondust
Dubus, Andre. Adultery and Other Choices
Dubus, Andre. Separate Flights
Egan, Greg. Axiomatic
Ellison, Harlan. Strange Wine
Endore, Guy. The Werewolf of Paris
Farris, John. All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By
Ferrante, Elena. The Days of Abandonment
Ferrante, Elena. The Lost Daughter

Ferrante, Elena. Troubling Love
Ferris, D.X. Reign in Blood
Glaser, Rachel. Paulina and Fran
Gotthelf, Jeremiah. The Black Spider
Gray, Amelia. Gutshot
Herbert, James. The Fog
Herbert, James. The Rats
Hill, Joe, and Adams, John Joseph, ed. The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015
Houllebecq, Michel. The Elementary Particles
Houllebecq, Michel. The Map and the Territory

Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day
Izzo, Jean-Claude. Total Chaos
Johnson, Denis. Train Dreams
Kersh, Gerald. Men Without Bones
King, Stephen. Danse Macabre
King, Stephen. Firestarter
Kotzwinkle, William. Doctor Rat
Lauren, Jillian. Everything You Ever Wanted
Le Fanu, Sheridan. Uncle Silas

Lish, Atticus. Preparation for the Next Life
Manchette, Jean-Patrick. 3 to Kill
Manchette, Jean-Patrick. Fatale
McKillip, Patricia. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Miller, Walter, Jr. The Best of Walter Miller, Jr.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind
Moorcock, Michael. Behold the Man
Niven, Larry. Ringworld
Nutting, Alissa. Tampa
O’Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners

Ober, Damien. Doctor Benjamin Franklin’s Dream America
Offill, Jenny. Dept of Speculation
Pancake, Breece. The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake
Patchen, Kenneth. The Journal of Albion Moonlight
Pollack, Donald Ray. Knockemstiff
Puzo, Mario. The Godfather
Pynchon, Thomas. Inherent Vice
Rankine, Claudia. Citizen
Reed, Kit. Where
Roth, Philip. The Ghost Writer

Rule, Ann. The Stranger Beside Me
Sayers, Dorothy. Gaudy Night
Sloane, William. The Edge of Running Water
Sloane, William. To Walk the Night
Strugatsky, Arkady & Boris. Hard to Be a God
Tryon, Thomas. The Other
Vinge, Verner. A Fire Upon the Deep
Wagner, Karl Edward. In a Lonely Place
Williams, Joy. The Changeling
Wolff, Tobias, Ed. The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories

Zink, Nell. The Wallcreeper
Zola, Emile. Germinal