Theroux seems to feel about cultures as some people feel about wines and cheeses, and it's that unfazed connoisseur's accuracy that gave Jungle Lovers (1971) its agreeably pulled punch. This is a different story, however, or rather a bunch of different stories and a whole gift pack of worlds to sample. The range is from Russia and Czechoslovakia, to India, Malaysia -- there (which for Theroux always means Africa) and here with lots of suggestive interpretations. And as if the geography weren't diverting enough, his characters run the gamut of age, sex, class, religious affiliation, etc., etc., almost as if he had adopted some enlightened policy of fair representation. What's supposed to count of course is the interaction and the subtleties of hybridization, and sometimes it does to fine effect (""A Real Russian Ikon,"" or ""What Have You Done to Our Leo""). But often as not, and largely because of the form, it comes off simply as the witty, stylistic and educated ironies of a slightly colonialist mentality. It's all very wry and blithe, nonetheless, and sometimes transcends its general exoticism and virtuosity.