The Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories

The stories in Osama Alomar's collection The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories skirt the line between poetry and prose. They are exceptionally brief, even for the realm of short stories, varying in length from one sentence to a few pages. They read like fables, whimsical and sometimes dark reflections on life, death, struggles, happiness and the human condition, packed into tales of talking animals, anthropomorphized objects and metaphorical searches.

In the title story, the teeth of a comb are envious of the class differences of humans and so strive to increase their length, only to be discarded as useless upon success. "I turned into a swamp of inactivity, and because of this no one was able to see the gems in my depths," forms the entirety of "Swamp." Two monetary bills discuss agency and dignity in "The Sold Nations," and a feather questions the wind's cruelty in "The Feather and the Wind." A person searches the globe for humanity in "Journey of Life," and lion cubs learn the limits of their mother's power in "The Strongest."

The stories, translated from Arabic by Alomar and translator C.J. Powell, leap from subject to subject. Each is unexpected, new and distinct, but carries within it a lesson in morality. It is impossible to read the collection and not take Alomar's meanings to heart. Be kind, the stories seem to say. Be wise. Be human. Be present. Stand up. Take risks. Try and fail and try again. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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