Onto these twelve brief stories, the English author, who died in 1968, die-stamps with increasing intensity her ""black hole"" vision of tormented consciousness -- the terror and despair of not-being in which the world outside is ""a vagueness, like a room if you look at it out of focus."" More recently Joyce Carol Oates has explored the sexual context of this female sense of ego-absence that can only he filled with a male presence -- which, before complete consummation, recedes and vanishes. Kavan's male saviors also fade -- into the sea, into grossness, into a Mercedes, into silence. Like early Oates, Kavan's tales are filled with roaring machines (her heroes are racing-car drivers), frigid vistas of ice and snow, and guilt in the wake of loss: ""he still enters my dreams. . .a loss. . .should have been prevented, for which I am myself to blame."" There are stories of exotic landscapes filled with blood and snakes and orchids, ""masked dummies"" from the outside world, and hospitals with the everpresent bazooka (syringe). Kavan's images have a drug-trip brilliance, and her prose, often curiously banal (""I live alone in my mind, and alone I'm being crushed to suffocation. . ."") still has the hypnotic effect of a busy abacus -- bright beads clicking back and forth over the steel certainties of desolation.