Tension between fathers and sons occupies a part of Makuck's attention in this first collection of stories: a rolling-stone son makes a yearly visit to his dying blue-collar father, then has to reconstruct the man's life after his death (""Big in Osaka""); a pious parochial-school boy is utterly bewildered by his milkman father's death in a fire (""Assumption""). The other major themes are the frustrations of subliterate young men and the rootlessness of Northerners transplanted South. Yet, whatever the subject matter, these stories are all marred by cliched clouds of blague, by excessive sentimentality--or, chiefly, by Makuck's persistent portrayal of his protagonists as victims, heavy-sweating victims of some unnameable dread. And though Makuck does well at recording the purposelessness of social conversation, his stories all either make their points too abruptly or overstay their welcome, petering out. Ungainly work, then--and too often unpleasantly self-pitying.