The sheer unfashionableness of Pyne's debut collection is an excitement. This is anything but standard-issue MFA stuff. She writes about the rich: organized quail-shoots, visits to country chateaus, family vacations at exclusive resorts. The knotty rendering of the stories is unapologetic: a Style. Barely a sentence goes by without a leap leapt, a risk taken, subjects playing peekaboo with predicates. The miasma of sensation negotiated by these characters of privilege harkens back to Henry Green's great, mysterious novel Party Going. But Pyne is hardly Green--yet. Exhilaration fades as you work into the book, as the prose mannerisms (largely borrowed, it seems, from Woolf, Stein, Harold Brodkey) close over your head and as the social portraiture disappears (and along with it any single person's voice except the sovereign one of the narration). Small things like giving or getting gifts or seating arrangements become the frameworks for a papier-mÉchÇ swaddle of choppy reiteration (``Where was it that he had just seen nubs, or had just been thinking of nubs? The father was wondering this. It was, yes! the nubs on a sweater; nubs such as, yes! were on that sweater, the sweater for ladies, the one that he had been fingering in Madrid, deciding, just yesterday, about buying. Or about not buying'') or baroque portentousness (``Victory is the tell-tale country to those who have not been there, I know that--the scene of a little stone throw that turns, with just the telling of it, into the dilation of a lake-sized orgasm''). The best things here are the more conventional, easily realized stories, usually interior monologues by solitary women--``Wind,'' ``Switzerland,'' ``The Dead Parts Only''--but Pyne will be an interesting writer to track as she goes on trying to bring into balance her penchant for literary decoration and an unmistakable talent for the gnostic moments that pepper lives lived among other lives.