The Ends of Our Tethers: Thirteen Sorry Stories

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The Ends of Our Tethers: 13 Sorry Stories by Alasdair Gray

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Ends of Our Tethers: 13 Sorry Stories by Alasdair Gray

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Alasdair Gray’s short-story writing is inspired, says Tim Martin

Some of this early work appears in her first collection, "Moses Supposes. Currie is still writing wonderful short stories. If she keeps it up, she could take her place alongside William Trevor and Edna O'Brien, two much more prolific Irish contemporaries. The Irish, like Americans from the South, are renowned for producing more than their share of fiction makers. Perhaps it's because they have the adaptive skills and ample time of a defeated and occupied people, both of which are useful for perfecting the art of telling tales.

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Currie is particularly blessed in this department: she has an off-center perspective on the mainstream and a shrewd attentiveness to its foibles; she also has a great gift of gab and a willingness to laugh at both horror and sorrow. The characters who gab their way through "Moses Supposes" will break your heart, even while you're laughing at them.

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An anonymous epigraph opens the book: "Comedy is the indirect praise of perfection. Currie's indirection proves to be marvelously crooked, as she shows us how far off our dearly sought perfection lies. Like Flannery O'Connor, another Irish-American woman writer and a Southerner besides who directed a sharp eye and ruthless ear to the follies of her fellow creatures, Ms.

Currie finds the glimmer of great mystery beneath the surface of our manners, discovering how we are daily damned and redeemed by small gestures.

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In the same way, she searches in small, ordinary objects for "hints of something panoramic, something poignant, meaningful and large. In most of these stories, the revelation of mystery comes in an encounter of an odd kind between two people, often of Irish-American ancestry. Many of the pairs are familial: parents and children, siblings, spouses.

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Others are more unlikely couples. In "Robbed," a television producer, ambivalent about her "difficult marriage," stumbles upon the robbery of a jewelry store where she is a regular customer. She keeps losing her wedding ring and coming in to buy replacements -- all engraved "Daniel and Janet forever.

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  4. When the captives are finally released, and her husband arrives, Janet "leaps onto him and pounds him with her loving fists," screaming, "Daniel, we've been robbed! Doe, a soft-hearted social worker who wears her dead mother's too small and too flashy red boots because it would be disloyal to give them away, is equally incapable of rejecting the huge, stolen Burberry raincoat given to her by Ruben, the semicriminal owner of a bankrupt pet store. Frequently the encounters in this collection are between a child and an adult, for in that disparity of age lies a great gap of mystery of the sort that Ms.