Mattison (Field of Stars, 1992) offers a comfortable--if not particularly dynamic--first collection of slice-of-life stories, many previously published in The New Yorker or quarterlies. In ``The Library Card,'' a weary mother watches through a window as her husband dances in a nearby park; a middle-aged divorcÇe in ``The Landlord'' waits for her lover to switch on the lights in her rented home; a lecturing poet in ``The Hawk On the Fence'' finds herself surrounded on campus one evening by a crowd of male Alcoholics Anonymous members going home. Mattison's brief fictions, here often set in the cluttered rooms and chilly streets of the Northeast, focus on the fleeting moments of revelation that unexpectedly turn up in the midst of everyday life. But to unearth such gold it's often necessary to plow through a great deal of sand; the spirit of quiet resignation that reigns as these typists, lawyers, graphic artists, and investment bankers review their longings and responsibilities is catching. Though at times dimly perceiving that their lives are unraveling in unexpected ways--as one, for example, allows an affair to develop with a babysitter's husband (in ``The Last Wedding Present'') or another discovers that a friend is picking purses at the office (in ``The Crossword Puzzle'')--Mattison's characters seem incapable of freeing themselves from their fatalistic mind-sets, and a reader soon begins to long for the emotional density and honest passion of Field of Stars, in which it was possible that something might change. Modest work. Mattison goes deeper in her longer fiction.