BLOOD, by Janice Galloway (Random House: $18; 179 pp.) The first of these 22 Scottish stories sets the tone. A girl has a tooth pulled and returns to school, and the oozing of blood from her mouth takes on nightmarish persistence and symbolic weight. In other stories, women and children are menaced by city grime, country isolation, bitter cold, harsh customs and the rough edges of the men they live with. A visit to a kindly uncle becomes a brush with molestation; a helping hand to a drunk is repaid with a spurt of venom.
The achievement of Janice Galloway (“The Trick Is to Keep On Breathing”) is to express these bleak visions in experimental forms that add to their intensity without confusing us. Her juggling with paragraphing and punctuation looks formidable on the page but merely gives her dialogue more snap and her description a hallucinatory force. Four stories, called “Scenes From the Life,” are written as plays; they could be acted, but perhaps only an animator of devilish skills could do them justice.