Fictionalized historical tableaux--similar, but inferior, to Guy Davenport's classical evocations. Here, then, are: Gustav Mahler--in an interpretation of a late Mahler symphony (always programmatic to start with) which draws on Mahler's and wife Alma's marital infidelities; Wordsworth, involved in macabre doings--and possibly incest--in Devon; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, wearying in his inventive, endless chasings after Love; and the dying Debussy, with reflections on the sexual anarchy intertwined with the French avant-garde. White hurls himself wholeheartedly into each piece, carpentering convincing backdrops of atmosphere and language. But there's rarely that extra spur which might make these period fictions actually break into tales and become self-sufficient; they settle instead for being merely clever, suave exercises. The only exception: the concluding novella--""The Heretical Singing of Pietro Carnesecchi,"" about an alchemist/sodomite/monk at the time of the Medicis--which does move the history up a step into irony. Overall, though: interesting but static.