Half a loaf, or even a slice of it, is better than none."" On this appropriately semi-apologetic note, editor Jean B. Read introduces a selection of passages from eight Christina Stead novels--plus one story from the Decameron-like Salzburg Tales (1934) and one novella, The Rightangled Creek (subtitled ""A Sort of Ghost Story"") from the Puzzleheaded Girl quartet (1967). One reason for the air of apology: Stead's sardonic masterpiece, The Man Who Loved Children, is not among the excerpted novels. Otherwise, however, the selections are reasonably representative, covering 40 years of the Australian writer's shifts of tone (somber, satiric, mellow) and shifts of scene--Sydney, Manhattan, the European finance capitals, rural America, industrial England. And succinct remarks preface each grouping of excerpts, most of which are long enough to give a fair feel of Stead's tart, direct way with people (especially women), places, and money. With all but three of the novels out of print here (Letty Fox: Her Luck and For Love Alone have recently been reprinted in England by Virago, a feminist press), this ""Reader"" may indeed fill more of a real need than most such enterprises.