Here, Swedish author Ekstrom (Death's Midwives, 1985--not reviewed) offers small, subtle stories that focus on the interior lives--the memories and ruminations--of ordinary people. At their best, Ekstrom's stories transcend the limitations of familiar psychology and themes, either through quirks of setting (a perfect love affair fails because the happy man misses his old yearning and torment--but the lovers are a visiting English lady and a Bulgarian mayor who lives in a basement beneath City Hall, where the local all-male avant garde meets to ponder questions of Art, Culture and Women); by bringing characters vividly to life (as through a close focus on the consciousness of the young boy in ""Crowded"" who feels his world crack after he witnesses a fight between his parents); or through original observation of homely details ("". . .she wondered about the tendency of dirt to stick together, its solidarity with other dirt, the surface tension around the kitchen tap where it always accumulated""). Several of the pieces consist of the inner thoughts (memories, worries, sometimes minor personal concerns) that occupy characters just before they learn some shattering news; the final story, ""The Big Sleep,"" seems calculated to provide a greater meaning: the narrator ruminates not on personal banalities but on the threat of nuclear wax and determines to write a warning--but she falls asleep instead. The political rhetoric here makes a weak story, undermining rather than capping off this slim volume. Ekstrom's talent is obvious, but the collection--decidedly minor--disappoints.