Brendan Gill is a most prepossessing writer in any medium -- part of which can be attributed to the fact that he has an infallible eye for both detail and le mot juste, be it said or unspoken. This collection -- eighteen stories, two novellas, are closer in both quality and timbre to his NBA-winning first novel The Trouble of One House but by the nature of the form may not have the commercial clink of The Day the Money Stopped. All of the stories are about people: fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, middle aged men (twice) looking for something they will not find in a young woman for an evening, ""The Mischievous Sinfulness of Mother Coakley"" -- a marvelous nun who plays tennis in her habit and indulges her only peccant sins on the court--a priest, etc. Both the novellas are considerable achievements managing to audit a whole lifetime, in fact several lifetimes, within their relatively short span: the superb ""The Malcontents"" in which a grandmother, her pretty, pettish and always unattached daughter, and her son go their separate ways -- ""in family life nothing fortunate was probable"": and the slow erosion of ""Last Things"" in which a man experiences all the ""misadventures of aging."" The stories are very diverse -- in their backgrounds; in their sympathetic and moral intentions just enough offsides to be interesting without ever trespassing on the didactic: certainly you'll remember ""Fat Girl"" whose lazy, sleazy promiscuity and self-indulgent accommodation led to her unexpected end; or the shiftless, helpless ""Sunflower Kid"" who finally justified his existence for a day -- a brutalizing day at a county fair; or ""The Loser"" who entrapped everyone in his mediocrity. Gill is so accomplished that his engaging effortlessness should not mislead you -- these stories are all more than they seem and all that they should be.