An elusive, tantalizing first book of stories, winner of the inaugural Flannery O'Connor short fiction award. Walton writes mostly about the everyday--though one story, ""Synaphoneuphon,"" deals with the future-timed sadness of a totally autonomic android; the stories are frequently set in plainish Pittsburgh; and often the actual action in these tales--group sex, food poisoning, a love affair's Waterloo--remains oddly ambiguous, sometimes annoyingly unclear. What is clear, however, is Walton's fondness for--and deftness with--conversational non sequiturs, those random splices of perception which routinely occur in everyday life. And the result is a refreshingly unromantic tone, one lacking that sentimentality about Ordinary People that occasionally undercuts even the excellent work of someone like Raymond Carver. Walton doesn't yet have Carver's masterful skills, of course: his stories are hardly balanced at all. But the conception of what fiction can record--blips, cuts, awkwardnesses--is a strong, original one here, and Walton's work should be watched for in the future.