These 24 brief tales--eight previously uncollected, the others from volumes never published here--are set in the fictional city of Malgudi, where for over 40 years Narayan's humble-to-prideful Malgudians (in tales and novels) have twisted and bobbed to the winds of Fate, to the vagaries of their fellows. Some tales end with an amusing flip of fortune, often stiffened with a light chill of irony: a street astrologer, visited by a glowering client bringing retribution from the past, wins out because of both wits and chance; a pickpocket learns that God's gift to him was a ""one-way deftness"" after he is jailed for compassionately putting a wallet back; a failure at winning crossword-contest money tries suicide by lying peacefully across tracks. . .but is saved by a delayed train--and a bit of luck at home. Or, like the animal in ""Blind Dog"" who inexplicably re-enters servitude to a brutal master, there are those who ""return to their doom with a free heart"": a student, a laughing-stock failure, writes a suicide note but dies in the delirium of success; a timid retiree turns his back on his own liberating artistry when others suggest he is mad. There are also delightful tales in which Fate as absolute millstone is hilariously: mocked: a poor man wins a steamroller, which nearly proves his ruin until a welcome earthquake solves his enormous problem. . . while an enterprising businessman gets more than he wanted when he purchases a mammoth statue for its metal. And the newer stories offer a fresh array of Malgudians who study Fate's bland surprises and cruel sentences with fascination: a lazy modern son teased into the marriage-mart, a glamorous singing star returning to her peasant village, a dessicated centenarian and a Western ""hippie"" pursuing elusive paths to pardon for sins of the past. From crowded streets to public buildings and neighborhood lanes, Narayan offers a rich cross-section of contemporary India; but the underlying ethos--that while good fortune may smile, bad luck crouches in the fairest garden--is captivatingly universal.