The late Frank O'Connor believed, declares his widow in her introduction, ""that stories if arranged in an 'ideal ambience' could strengthen and illuminate each other."" In her own arrangement Mrs. O'Connor has echoed successfully O'Connor's thematic interaction in the enormous spread of incident and characters. In these brief and prodigally peopled stories of Irish village life, O'Connor again teased out the agonizing-to-amusing variants of the Irish involvement with ""the irremediable,"" the sad finality of events never caught at the flood. The waves of possibility lap at many lonely outposts only to recede, either leaving the bereft diminished or with a wry amusement at ""where the ferryboat left him."" Lovers are separated by the burden of aging parents; a troubled Irishman returned from America cannot recover from the first ""disappearance"" of the fatherland; a lonely woman is driven from her cherished seclusion by an even lonelier intruder. Yet from the irremediable may come an ""out-and-out"" gift: strong ties of love spring up between foundlings and an old woman when never sought; a father senses the despair in his adolescent son on the brink of escape. Again the Church underscores limits of things as they are; men and women worry sex and love in gloomy trepidation. And there are stories of rich broad humor. A distinguished collection.