an unofficial Alasdair Gray website
Unlikely Stories, Mostly (1983)
Unlikely Stories, Mostly was Gray's first short story collection and the beginning of him getting his hands on full control of the way his books look. For Lanark, Gray might have designed the layout of the text, contributed his own artwork for the dust jacket and illustrated five full-page title pages, and this would be more than enough for most writers. But Gray wanted more, so for this book (and most first editions since) he commandeered the hardback's boards as well, insisting they were embossed in silver with an intricate pattern of thistles and the motto "Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation", a motto that recurs regularly in his later book designs.
Recently, Unlikely Stories was reissued as number 81 in the Canongate Classics series (Lanark was reissued in a special edition as number 100, in March 2001). In any edition (Canongate or Penguin, Hardback or Paperback), however, Unlikely Stories is a beautiful book, certainly the most sumptiously illustrated of all his works. The quality of the stories is also consistently high, with only Logopandocy and The Great Bear Cult able to try the patience of anybody.
The collection brings
together most of Gray's short work up to the early 1980s, much of which had
been published (although not widely available) before. The earliest story (The
Star) was published when Gray was just 17; even allowing for a certain
amount of rewriting, it's a precocious achievement. The first hardback edition,
published by Canonagate in 1983, was issued with a mock erratum slip, printed
on a tiny piece of paper (3" x 1") in red ink, warning:
ERRATUM: This slip has been inserted by mistake
Full list of contents to the first edition:
BUY THIS BOOK