As precious as a vein of sapphires in Serendip is this collection of new western writing pulled together by the editors of Northern Lights, the literary review where most of these pieces first appeared. It's usually fairly easy to find a few dogs in a collection such as this, but none too easy here. The 44 essays, poems, and memoirs are arranged to play well with one another and to balance bright and dark, pensive and exuberant. Among the highlights: Jim Harrison (""Nesting in Air"") at his stream-of-consciousness best, meditates upon food and rituals, two items that take up plenty of space in his daily thoughts; Gretel Ehrlich, in a series of correspondences to an architect friend, designs her special house: ""part wild, part human, part beast"" (""Letters to an Architect""); Edward Abbey takes a look at the love/hate relationship Americans have with the cowboy (""Something about Mac, Cows, Poker...""), coming down four-square in the hate camp; and Terry Tempest Williams tells of her membership in ""The Clan of the One-Breasted Women,"" a family riddled with breast cancer. But the real fun is in the mesmerizing new names: Jerry McGahan and his tale of a man's quixotic and prescient, if thwarted, land deal (""Waxwing""); Geoff O'Gara on, again, the rituals of nourishment: a whole different approach than Harrison's, though just as entertaining (""America Eats""); and Ellen Meloy exploring one of the finer points of the vernacular landscape: the drive-in (""Passion Pit""), to mention only three of more than 25 relative unknowns. A remarkable gathering, from which you will emerge shaking your head at the amount of sheer pleasure 400 pages can deliver.