Guided by the light of past Talkers of The Town and Profilers like A.J. Liebling, Lillian Ross, and the mighty E.B. White, staff writer for The New Yorker Mark Singer introduces us to a gang of real New Yorkers--in a collection that upholds the grand tradition. In more than two dozen ""Talk"" pieces, Singer (Funny Money, 1985) paints neat cameos of real citizens as colorful as any imagined by Damon Runyon, venturing only rarely to distant places like Brooklyn or New Jersey. Encapsulated in 1500 words or so, we find a man who is simultaneously a plumber, a detective, and proprietor of the flashiest motorcycle in captivity. We go on rounds with a master knife-sharpener and a fancy vegetable-dealer. We encounter the guy who sends forth all those clowns who urge handbills on scurrying pedestrians. Purveyor of name-tagged togs for summer campers or dealer in racing pigeons--they're all here. And, in full length ""Profiles,"" we spend considerable time with a network-news guru, a proud clan of apartment-house supers, a funny fiddling busker, a renowned theatrical agent, and other friends of Singer's. If, sometimes, he can't hide the tricks of his trade--like the full inventories of varieties of zippers, tomatoes, knives and building-maintainance supplies, or detailed accounts of the sartorial get-ups of his subjects--the tricks are good ones and his sleight of hand entertains even as we see how it's done. Singer does have a way with words as he describes a woman with ""orange hair, dark glasses and a convincing scowl"" or a sailor who ""has the look of an avid indoorsman."" There is a man with ""a significant nose"" and here are the handball fans seated around the court ""in aluminum folding chairs, wearing golf hats, Bermuda shorts, knit shirts with holes where the ashes landed."" Reporter Singer listens to his subjects because he likes them. They've all got personality. Here's an easy way for readers to enlarge their circle of friends for a while, too.