From Dubus (Selected Stories, 1988), fourteen new pieces that show this stalwart author, more often than not, at his great- hearted best. Dubus can be both derivative and wildly uneven, as in his clone-of-Hemingway opener, about a boy and an accidental shooting (``The Intruder''), or in the mawkish melodrama of ``Falling in Love,'' the first of four touching on the life of wounded Vietnam veteran and lawyer Ted Briggs. At the same time, it's as if there is a stream of the natural, pure, and unaffected, and when Dubus's energies are tapping that current, it seems there's no human life he can't transform into quiet, passionate, commanding fiction. Even in short, one-take sketches about the losses felt by a divorced mother (``A Love Song'') or the death, in bed, of a 77-year-old woman's husband (``At Night''), Dubus puts his fingers on the pulse of lives made genuine, felt, and real. A high-danger story about a sunken boat and sharks (``Blessings'') make the heart leap into the throat; but other stories are touched over and again by sensitive, acute observations that stir the heart more quietly, as when a mother woke her kids up ``gently because she felt she was pulling them from childhood.'' Dubus's range is not so wide as it is deliberate and true: A retired Marine learns the despair and shame of being wounded (``The Colonel's Wife''); a 55-year-old man falls in love--or in despair--with a woman younger than his own daughter (``The Lover''); a woman, thinking of her children and husband, furiously beats down two attackers (``Out of the Snow''); and this same woman, before her marriage, learns through her Catholicism that her life, passion, and love are all one (``All the Time in the World''). At one point, in passing, literature is referred to as ``the human attempt to make truth palpable and delightful.'' And so, in Dubus's capable hands, it is.