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Publishers Weekly Review
The truthful tales are better than the tall ones in this rambunctious collection by the Scottish author of the well-received Poor Things. The title itself is a whopper: there are 12 stories, a prologue and an epilogue. The humorous entries range from silly to archly playful. ``The Marriage Feast'' parodies Kingsley Amis's account of a run-in with Dylan Thomas, casting Christ in the mad poet's role. In ``The Trendelenburg Position,'' a dentist muses on the possibilities of virtual reality to a prone (and silent) patient. ``Near the Driver'' takes a mocking look at Britain's railroad future, in which computer-controlled trains announce precisely when they will crash. These pieces are amusing enough, but when Gray lays aside his trademark wit to deal with characters in his native Scotland (``Houses & Small Labour Parties'' and ``You'') or to tenderly portray an elderly botanist (``Time Travel''), his deft prose and thoughtful insights render the cleverness of the other tales a bit shallow in comparison. Gray's witty touch is also evident in the quirky black-and-white drawings interspersed with the text. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Venturing into a bizarre, malproportioned world, Gray's stories beggar categorization. They're a fake of the real, in keeping with the title's paradox; beyond that, they share only phantasms that leave an absurd satisfaction in reading. Ever been hostage to a dentist's palaver? "The Trendelenburg Position" relives, not relieves, the agony in 10 pages. Ever enjoy a drink in solitude in a tavern, while feeling close to God? "Are You a Lesbian?" alludes to what the outside world may think of the sight. In such strange but creative directions, Gray bends his imagination in these 14 tales (not 10--he fooled us again), from sf situations (a runaway train of the future) to a satirically scientific one in which a man uses "Baconian Induction" to solve the mystery of who put chewing gum between his toes. The lovelorn need not be forlorn in Gray's hands, either, for he serves a few romantic imbroglios in an appropriately existential sauce. Plainly written, partially fathomable, and distinc~tively quirky, these are stories for cutting-edge tastes. ~--Gilbert Taylor
Kirkus Book Review
In this collection of (in fact) more than ten stories noted Scottish writer Alasdair Gray (Poor Things, 1993) again displays both his artistic talents--the illustrations are his own--and his sometimes quirky, but always original storytelling gifts. Many of these stories have previously appeared in British journals like The Independent and The Glasgow Herald; with a few exceptions, the most notable being a deceptively quiet horror story of rail travel in the future (``Near the Driver''), they are set in present-day Scotland. For Gray, the region is as different from England as Faulkner's Mississippi is from the rest of the US. It's a hard place of implacable pieties, rigid class structures, and an undercurrent of resentment of Tories, Toffs, and Thatcherites. But Gray is too much the artist to limit himself to bitter polemics. Humor and empathy are his preferred tools. In ``Houses and Small Labor Parties,'' the youngest member of a crew of unskilled workers poignantly confronts the realities of class and aging when he agrees to work with old Joe one Sunday on the boss's garden. An older woman who ``has no pity for men and enjoys destroying them, especially smart manipulators,'' woos her lover back because she doesn't want ``to be lonely'' (``Homeward Bound''); at a wedding, a young Glasgow woman, who deliberately dressed down knowing that her best dress would look cheap beside the English groom's relatives, is taken up and then dropped by a smug Englishman far too obsessed with the ragged jeans she wears (``You''); and a married woman, searching for her long lost faith, reads her Bible in a local pub, the only quiet place she can find, but is evicted because ``we cannot have a woman weeping in the corner of the bar. It spoils people's pleasure'' (``Are You A Lesbian?''). A remarkably unpretentious mix of wit and wisdom infused with a palpable delight in telling stories that will never turn stale.