Sixteen pieces by Beattie (nine from The New Yorker): glimpses of anxiety and ennui done with fashionable skill and deftness. A daughter, in "In the White Night," has died of leukemia, and her parents, aware of their growing eccentricity, "had learned to stop passing judgment on how they coped with the inevitable sadness that set in. . ." Most of these stories have a similar "sadness" in them, though less often does it have origins as weighty. In "Lofty," a woman cuts her finger climbing a tree at a house she had lived in with a lover ten years earlier; the inquisitive reader isn't going to find out, as the woman comes down from the tree, why it is exactly that the taste of her blood "brought tears to her eyes." Doubt, uncertainty, sadness, anxiety: at times they come from identifiable causes (a miscarriage in "The Big Outside World"; a breast lump in "High School"; a woman having "exploratory surgery" in "Coney Island"). At others (many others), they come from the wistful infelicities of love (in "Spiritus," a man on vacation with his wife fantasizes about his girlfriend; in "Times," a young wife remembers her husband's crying-in-the-pillow admission of an infidelity). And there are also times when it seems the characters just need a good shaking, something to take their minds off themselves ("Ned and I have been divorced for three years," says a woman in "Cards," while eating in a fancy restaurant, "and I still turn to stone when his name is spoken"). One has to like these pampered characters a lot (not always easy) in order to give the weight to their permanent-press sorrows that seems to be expected (in the title piece, a Salinger-esque brother-sister story, the girl, with a broken arm, says that she does "think of my arm as a broken wing, and suddenly everything seems so sad that I feel my eyes well up with tears"). Skilled woe-is-modern-life pieces with little underneath and few surprises, but expert on the modish surface.