Dovlatov (The Compromise, The Zone, Ours) shapes this little book from an inventory of the contents of the single suitcase he carried with him from Russia to a new life in Forest Hills. Each item occasions a comic anecdote, a mini-story. Crepe socks recall an erstwhile black-marketeering scheme involving two Finnish women; a set of driving gloves has its roots in a disastrous involvement with an avant-garde film about Peter the Great. Dovlatov's comedy is of the ineffectual, the schlemiel--and with everything always bound to failure, it's almost never very startling. So the rare note of endurance is likely to--and does--stand out: in a story called ""A Poplin Shirt,"" Dovlatov sketches the touching, cleareyed natural history of his 25-year marriage: ""We faced all the temptations and horrors of life with our only gift--indifference. What is more solid than a castle built on sand? What is more durable and dependable in family life than mutual lack of character? What could be stabler than two hostile states, each incapable of defending itself?"" Too brief, too dependably pithy, but pleasing in its anti-pretension.