Thirty of Kramer's stimulating ""Letters from Europe,"" originally published in The New Yorker over the past decade and collected here for the first time. Subjects include the ambiguities faced by the million-and-a-half blacks presently living in Paris and the exploits of a Calabrese con man named Verdiglione who bilked millions of lira from his fellow Italians--who, according to Kramer, ""have a great respect for obscurity."" Also of note are portraits of Kurt Waldheim and Klaus Barbie, ""the Butcher of Lyons."" Kramer writes with enormous immediacy and emotional impact, primarily by rooting abstract concepts in day-to-day details of ordinary lives. Thus, when she is concerned with the growth of discrimination and the rise Of the Right Wing in France, she focuses her attention on one Francoise Gaspard, the former mayor of the industrial town of Dreux, and her eventual opponent Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose Front National is determined to drive aliens from French society. The result is a fresh and involving approach to situations that might otherwise be dry and statistical. Not all of Kramer's subjects are of national or international importance, however. For example, she sketches her friend Josephine Guozou, a 64-year-old Breton grandmother who is described as ""a natural backwater busybody."" Kramer's recital of Josephine's contretemps with vacationing Germans is as hilarious as it is insightful. There is also a sensitive portrait of a Parisian concierge, Anna Silva, that will not be easily forgotten. A wonderful collection that readers will find themselves dipping into again and again, written with perception, feeling, wit and occasional irreverence. Irresistible.