By Sarah Saffian
Updated September 24, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

William Trevor’s writing is as much about what isn’t expressed as what is — a study in negative space. A deliberate, slightly ominous rhythm propels the stories in A Bit on the Side, and the small-scale characters (a prep-school maid, a troubled priest, an adulterous accountant) are conjured fully with a few well-chosen observations: ”One shoulder taking the weight against the door-jamb, a single curler left in her hair, slippers on her feet and the folded arms.” Each tale is rich with the layered depth of a novel. A piece like ”Sacred Statues” — about a poor woman who considers selling her baby to support her husband’s artistic gift — leaves you pleasantly disoriented, as if just emerging from a thick forest.