The Ends Of Our Tethers, 13 Sorry Stories by Alasdair Gray.

Canongate, 1985, 181p.

Every Gray book is a visual delight. This is another of those beautifully produced Canongate editions of Gray’€™s works, as usual with wide margins and illustrations by the author, though here there are no footnotes nor marginal annotations. In the main these so-called sorry stories feature, as the book’s title suggests, put-upon protagonists and include more than a few tales of unsatisfactory or failed marriages. They vary in length from two or so to 44 pages.

Gray’€™s narrators tend to have an air of detachment about them and it is unsurprising that their relationships are dysfunctional. Some have especially unfortunate habits. Job’€™s Skin Game‘€™s narrator is so fascinated by his own eczema he subject his scabs to almost Linnaean levels of classification.

Of the other stories that do not focus on marriage Aiblins features the suppression by an academic of a younger poet’€™s works and acts partly as a device to smuggle in some of Gray’€™s own (accomplished) poetry which he nevertheless deconstructs in typical Gray fashion. Wellbeing is about the necessity of not being sane in our crazy world and Big Pockets With Buttoned Flaps is an unusual erotic preference.

15 February 2003 is not so much a story as an account of an anti-Iraq war march. Here Gray mentions that the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia at the time of the Suez crisis in 1956. He is confusing this with the invasion of Hungary in that year. The (crushed) Prague Spring was in 1968.

With its illustrations of disconnection mixed with the odd desultory polemic, as an introduction to Gray’€™s world view this collection couldn’t be bettered.

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