Recurrent themes in this admirable collection hinge upon the distance between the individual and his world. Appearing in several stories is George Fuller, a Kafkaesque creature of blunted talent, who is a college professor and aspires to write. He is persecuted by his wife and is perpetually trying to escape from the narrow limits of his derivative, vicarious knowledge -- by going to the country, by getting a job in a canning factory. These peregrinations cannot sustain the quest, for life is impersonal to the protracted but prolapsed world of the intellectual. A southern Negro-white scene where the Negro is tormented leaves the spectators breathless although George throughout carries on a wordless conversation with a dinner guest across the way. Other timids and misunderstoods localize the need to separate the and the not I -- Stephen Pratt bungles his opportunity to meet a celebrated writer and certifies the budding hostility of his colleagues, William Sanders cannot distinguish between television and real life. These are not pretty stories nor will they appeal to the reader who looks for plot. But in the problem areas defined by an avant-garde tradition they are engaging. Most of the collection has appeared in literary publications.