Fourteen stories from the prolific Slavitt (Lives of the Saints, 1990, etc.)--a mix of a few experiments with a number of loosely plotted meditations on the long-term depression that follows a midlife divorce and intergenerational tension. The title story, including footnotes, docs a ""Lost in the Funhouse"" Barthian turn in an account of a writing teacher in New York who is faced with urban brutality--both in his own experience and through the fiction of his students. ""The Imposter"" is a lively, inventive story in which the narrator, a writer's brother, learns in life why writers enjoy playing roles, because it creates ""a kind of fun, a peculiar liveliness and intensity, that comes with imposture."" ""Grandfather"" is a moving story about a narrator, divorced from a still-bitter woman, who returns to attend his grandson's bris and comes to a reconciliation with his feelings. Several of these family meditations work metaphorically and occasionally dazzle with their aphoristic prose: ""The trick, though,"" says the narrator of ""Simple Justice,"" a tale about forgetting the familial past, ""may be not to pay too close attention, to see things without looking too hard."" Though a few of the pieces seem sketched out without being fully developed, they maintain a hard-edged balance between humor and despair for the most part. While an experiment like ""Instructions""--a list--can be clever and amusing but too smug (""I'm being the smart-ass author, screwing around and playing games""), others like ""Conflations""--an elderly relative mistakes a man for his dead father--capture the rhyme and reason of life's messiness. ""Wherever you are, that's the foreground, and you never get to that wonderful faraway place where lives all come together."" Slavitt, while repetitive and too leisurely at times, is worth reading for moments such as that.