A hit-and-miss collection of essays by Gen X writers responding to Beller's (Seduction Theory, 1995) vague directive to ""find something that matters to you and write about it."" Their concerns have little to do with the dreams or nightmares of the subtitle; hip cynicism and inchoate negativity about careers and relationships drive most of these edgy writings. Some are prickly, like Robert Bingham's remedy for a ""collapsed"" life: ""Don't spend time mulling about your stupid little worthless misery""; join an election campaign and let the ""ceremonial superficiality"" take your mind off your worries. Wondering ""what other neurotic Catholic sluts do in their down time,"" Caitlin O'Connor Greevy goes from ""partying"" (""including unprotected anal sex with an actor, God forbid"") to a vow of abstinence. Relieved by a clean HIV test result, she resolves to find ""an employed male who is groomed."" She gets pregnant, though-and wonders how much she can get for the baby. In ""Window Shopping for a Life,"" Jennifer Farber measures her life and relationships against the ""thoroughbreds"" she finds in the New York Times wedding announcements. Kansan Scott Heim, weary of Wizard of Oz jokes, yearns for ""a bad, brutal Kansas"" beyond In Cold Blood. He's ""nearly suffocated with jealousy"" when an old friend winds up in prison for shooting an elderly convenience-store clerk. Fascinated by the murders of six gay hustlers in Kansas City, Heim decides to try hustling, quitting only after a savage beating from a john. Bliss Broyard's entry, ""My Father's Daughter,"" is the best piece in the collection, sensitive and well written. She examines her relationship with her father, the late critic Anatole Broyard, by hanging out with some of his old pals, hoping ""to discover the man behind himself' and his assessment of her. Though it lacks a thematic focus, there's enough kvetching here for two generations.