The British must be much less used to rude, crude Jewish humor in their fiction than we are: this book has earned the Somerset Maugham Prize and a generally admiring/shocked critical response. Over here, however, Sinclair's stories will read in the main like second-plantings from Roth, Heller, Michaels, or Elkin. A Jewish soccer team is remembered in ""Wingate Football Club."" The requisite sex-in-Israel theme is given a go in ""The Promised Land"" (""Call me Schlemeil. You will after you've read this""). A private-eye named Joshua Smolinsky narrates a clutch of stories in a diffidently hard-boiled voice, which allows Sinclair to dilate upon various cheesy US locales: Hollywood, Las Vegas casinos, Texas steakhouses. Still, one story does sing: ""The Evolution of the Jews""--in which Israel's Lost Tribe is found in Africa. . . as giraffes! (""During the floods the stupider animals begged us to eat the clouds. We laughed. So they killed us. The floods subsided. Now we are accused of stealing the clouds. . . we are accused of being alien, aloof, stiff-necked."") And two stories without Jewish themes also work well: ""Le Docteur EnchaÃ®hÃ‰,"" about a psychiatrist who goes berserk and cuts out a woman's tongue; and ""Titillatio"" (philosophy in the bedroom). But Sinclair's kind of comedy begs for a scalpel and instead gets generally broadsword treatment here, with unshaped narratives that do little more than make cheap points--points which US readers will be likely to find all too familiar.