A showcase for the overlooked writers of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico that's a bit heavy on surprise endings. Fernndez Olmos (Hispanic Studies/Vassar) and Paravisini-Gebert (Spanish/Brooklyn College) -- coeditors of Pleasure in the Word: Erotic Writing by Latin American Women (not reviewed) -- have assembled 25 stories by authors from a part of this hemisphere that is habitually underrepresented in anthologies. The editors write that they want to ""offer the reader the full range and variety of contemporary Hispanic Caribbean stories, attempting a balance of styles and subject matter."" Still, the tales are linked by many common themes and concerns: the poverty of these islands, the vibrant life of their city streets, the pain of exile, the alienation of the intellectuals, and the beckoning presence of the American giant to the north. In one of the best, for example, Renâ€š del Risco BermÂ£dez's ""Now That I'm Back, Ton,"" several of these themes intersect in a story of a bitter homecoming. Rosario Ferrâ€š contributes another striking first-person stream-of-consciousness, ""Colonel Bum Vivant,"" an initially coherent monologue from a homeless Vietnam vet that gradually reveals a tragically shattered mind. Although the majority of the pieces are disappointingly conventional, at least two -- Humberto Arenal's ""Truffle Hunters,"" and Pedro Peix's ""Requiem for a Wreathless Corpse"" -- attempt daring experiments in shifting point of view. Peix's story, about a greedy family exploiting the corpse of a famous relative for profit, has the added advantage of being the longest in a book where most pieces are too short to develop satisfying solutions, relying instead on Twilight Zone-like plot twists for cheap irony. Finally, ""Tosca,"" by Abilio Estevez, is a bittersweet tale of a man haunted by an artistic experience from his youth, perhaps the best offering of the volume. Disappointing, overall, but not without some felicitous choices.