A welcome gathering of Bowen's short fiction. Here, of course, are all those familiar masterworks of description, homey and capacious: the glaringly brilliant recollections of childhood (""Coming Home,"" ""Songs My Father Sang Me""); the stories whose main character seems to be a building, its density and light (""The Storm,"" ""No. 16,"" ""Ivy Gripped the Steps,"" ""Look At All Those Roses""); small, folded-into-tabs novels (""The Disinherited""); the stories of the Blitz and blackouts (""Mysterious Kor""). But Bowen's stories--which in their relative brevity read more as old, good tweed than do the novels--display other, odder, richer resonances too. Ghosts (""Footholds"") are a calmly accepted conduit of wisdom. Table talk has all the volleying speed of Ivy Compton-Burnett but minus the viciousness. Newspaper crimes, Italy, cars: they coexist in sentences of great plasticity (""That was Miss Selby's secret, which like a soap-bubble at the end of a pipe, would bulge, subside, waver, wobble iridescently, and subside again""). And there are awful ""enormities"" lurking below these stories--which you feel but never see, as Bowen's fiction rises above everything. True, in their care and slowness, many of these 79 tales may now read as dated--but English fiction was held and nurtured in their thickness. For themselves and for their place in fiction's development, then--an essential volume wherever the original collections of stories are not available.