Proper Name and Other Stories ($13.95 paperback original; June 28, 1996; 144 pp.; 0-8112-1325-0). Twenty-one witty, elliptical metafictions, many of them prose poems, by an accomplished experimentalist whose very titles--e.g., ``You Don't Aggressively Soothe the Butter''--can make you laugh out loud. Ingenious play with language and meaning, fresh coinages, unconventional spacing and punctuation, and truly weird free associations (``Wait, I'm mincing words. What pie?'') are constant presences in such charming pieces as ``We Plow the Roads'' (a hilarious riff on surviving New England winters) and ``My Excellent Novel'' (a surrealist view of female friendship that recalls Jane Bowles at her daftest and brightest). There's some self-indulgence, but when Mayer is at her frequent best--as in her word-portraits of a suburban mother's Molly Bloomlike fantasies and fears (``Agoraphobia'' and ``0 to 19'')--she blends eccentric content with rigorous verbal (and virtually musical) notation reminiscent of her obvious exemplar, Gertrude Stein.