In this richly accomplished first collection of short stories, Hersey (Life Sketches, 1989, etc.) brings us 11 pieces, the best of them burnished with scenes and characters from another era. The longest and most detailed here, the title story ""Fling,"" is a gorgeous evocation of the narrow dreams and perceptions of the last of WASP society. During the Kennedy era, the 70-ish Phillip and his charming Venus are having one last fling, though Venus is miserably out of place following Phillip to El Paso (rounding out a Willa Cather tour of the American West). Sitting in a barren barroom with Phillip's vulgar business chum (""Why did we always travel around Ã¡ trois?""), Venus uneasily concludes that her narrow life with Phillip and a cast of people with names like Sue-Sue and Syllie has somehow failed. Later, walking across a bridge to JuÃ¡rez, she realizes that she and her beautiful Phillip are fools--and now she is dying, ""The Terrorist,"" in contrast, is no more than a political cartoon, a sketchy romp about a middle-class Weatherman type as he plants a bomb in a Boston bank. ""The Announcement"" is another treasure, detailing a bittersweet Kennedy-era Thanksgiving in which a man watches his mother appraise his fiancÃ‰e. In ""Why Were You Sent Out Here?"" a tired colonel shipped to China battles an arrogant younger colonel, only to confront the ghost of his own unkindness in the past. ""The Captain"" is an old-fashioned tale of losing heart when the captain gives up the fight--losing his fisherman's dignity to impersonal business interests. ""Mr. Quintillian"" is a latter-day Bartleby-tale set in N.Y.C. Of the rest: ""God's Typhoon"" and ""Peggety's Parcel of Shortcomings"" are rich with WW II-era innocence, while ""The Blouse,"" ""Affinities,"" and ""Requiescat""--contemporary stories like ""The Terrorist""--are sharper in tone and feeling, thinner and less satisfying. Overall: a wonderful collection, bound to win Hersey new fans.