Fables for the Modern Age: Osama Alomar’s The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories

As a writer, fables have always eluded me. I am not a pious person, but when I try to write a fable, I try so hard to make it meaningful that it comes out pious, pretentious, overwrought. Osama Alomar does not have that problem. His book, The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories, is a delicate, sometimes hilarious, and often starkly heartbreaking collection of modern fables. Alomar worked with C.J. Collins to translate his Arabic stories into English, and while some of them seem like they could be from land in any time, others like “The God of Virtues” dive into hypermodern questions—“What if Satan joined Facebook?”—and many wrestle, either directly or obliquely, with the ravages of war.

No matter the topic, however, Alomar manages the trick I never can: his parables are never didactic. They’re warm, human, occasionally terrifying, but at no point do you ...