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Unlikely Stories, Mostly

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  321 ratings  ·  21 reviews
This is Alastair Gray's first collection of short stories. He is the author of "Lanark" and "Why Scots Should Rule Scotland", and won the Whitbread Prize for "Poor Things".
Paperback, 271 pages
Published October 2nd 1984 by Penguin Books
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I'd honestly never heard of Alasdair Gray until recently, when I saw his unique art staring out at me from the shelf of the library. I took it and flipped through; it was filled with Gray's illustrations, and with idiosyncratic typography. Reading the first few stories, I saw that this nicely framed his writing style, which in this collection at least makes the odd and fantastic--sometimes the startlingly, unthinkably weird--seem downright normal. A chance remark made one afternoon that literall ...more
MJ Nicholls
Unlikely Stories, Mostly is stressfully sandwiched between Lanark & 1982 Janine in the Gray oeuvre, and meets the expectations of neither masterwork. The best stories date from his time in obscurity. In pieces like ‘The Comedy of the White Dog’ and ‘The Great Bear Cult’ his voice is playful and surreal. These are charming little satires and fables, taking up about one quarter of the book. ‘M. Pollard’s Prometheus’ is among the more engaging stories written close to publication.

Noran Miss Pumkin
I wish you could see this weird cover-it sold me on the book. I did not care was was inside the pages. Then I flipped the pages, and what strange illustrations delighted me! The cover has open skulls, with babies or cupids growing in them! This is awesome!!!!!
Apr 01, 2008 Windfield rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with imaginations.
This book came to me after I mentioned that I liked book not about day-to-day life. Sometimes books for adults become so mundane, as if all we care to read about is love, sex and lies. Books for children on the other hand may be written on lies and a little love but are mostly immune to such problems, they may be untrue in our little world, not something you could see every day, but a whole new world that is true to itself and wonderful for it.
Unlikely Stories, Mostly on the other hand is not a
Pamela Scott
I became a fan of Gray’s when I read his novel Lanark about a year ago after a friend and fellow book worm gave me a spare copy and badgered me to read it. I didn’t think it was my thing and was proven wrong. In my humble opinion Lanark is one of the greatest novels ever written. It blew me away. I’ve wanted to read more of Gray since then.

The stories in Unlikely Stories, Mostly remind me of the best bits of Lanark. This is a good thing believe me. Gray’s imagination, skill and style as a writer
Feb 24, 2009 Shannon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are interested in politics, people who like books, people who like pictures
Shelves: amusing
This is by far the best of Gray's short story collections, provided you don't read the first story in the book, which is for babbies anyway. Also the 1984 King Penguin edition is the nicest.
Jul 30, 2012 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Autodidacts
Recommended to Alan by: Other work
Alasdair Gray is, by his own oft-repeated admission, a terrible writer who has been committing not-very-likeable prose, drawings and other miscellanea to paper while tucked away in an obscure and tiny corner of the British Empire for several decades now. But then, Gray is also utterly unreliable, especially when talking about his own fiction—and, in fact, Unlikely Stories Mostly turns out to be quite entertaining after all. Parts of it are even brilliant.

This is an early collection of shorter wo
Brian Boyle
Good short stories, mostly. Alasdair Gray's quirkiness and subversive wit shines through in this excellent collection of short stories.
Michael Vaughan
Word hardly contain enough meaning.
The rise and fall of the axel tree changed my life.
No exaggeration.
The first story I read from this collection was "Five letters from an Eastern Empire" which was published by itself by penguin as part of its 60th anniversary. "Describing etiquette, government, irrigation, education, clogs, kites, rumour, poetry, justice, massage, town-planning, sex and ventriloquism in an obsolete nation" the letters are wonderfully funny and sad. The stories are set in widely different times and place but all have absurd moments and a dreamlike distance.
This collection of short stories really astonished me with how good it was and has made me a fully converted Alasdair Gray fan. Other than one largely unreadable story ("Logopandocy," which consists of enormous lists composed by a madman), this collection is a must-read. The stories could almost be described as sci-fi or fantasy, since they're often set in some sort of alternate reality, but they're really something all their own. They're kooky and surprising and delicious.
Sep 03, 2009 Monica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eccentrics
Laughed out loud at the erratum the second I opened the book and found myself smiling all through the first two stories.

Alistair Gray was recommended to me but not a specific title. I got half way into this and realized I had no idea wtf was going on, so I went on to read something else.

Does anyone prefer one of Gray's books over his others?

I preferred the shorter stories at the beginning and ending of this book to the few longer and boring stories in the middle. I did like how creative the whole book was, though. The stories were strange but extremely creative, and I liked that the author included his own illustrations and had an artistic approach to the layout of the book.
I love Alasdair Gray's writing so much. He is a singular talent. Read this and learn about bear cults, hand carved toad clogs, dog transmogrification, domestic disputes and 18th century linguistics.
I learned that ducks are a dynamo waiting to happen, and certain facts about the sky it would be churlish to reveal.
Iain Watson
Unlikely Stories, Mostly (Canongate Classics, 81) by Alasdair Gray (1998)
My favorite stories were The Great Bear Cult and The Comedy of the White Dog
Unlikely Stories, Mostly (Canongate Classics, 81) by Alasdair Gray (1998)
Good collection of short stories. Only one was totally unreadable.
The illustrations really add to this odd novel.
Sep 26, 2007 C.m. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Todd
I think this author should have greater recognition. His works are semi-fantastic and quite imaginative, many stories are stylized as fables and dispatches from far away lands. But to describe does not do the work justice. He is original, fresh, and hard to pin down. I admire him a great deal.
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Alasdair Gray trained as a painter at the local Glasgow school of art. He was 47 when he published his first novel, Lanark (1981), which combines all sorts of genres, from sci-fi to autobiography and literary criticism, into a fantastic account of the city of Unthank - a thinly disguised Glasgow.
Gray shows an interest in sex which borders on the unhealthy, as indicated by the title of his 1990 nov
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