Busch's talents for intimate emotional observation seem to be fraying--on the evidence of his recent, confused novel, Invisible Mending, and now this set of repetitious, single-noted, dimension-poor stories. The American boy-man of the title appears as a constant in each, whether he's a doctor or a writer or an expatriate; this essentially unvarying character is no longer married; he trades heavily on old relationships, tries unsuccessfully to rekindle past affections, and frequently refers himself back to semi-Arcadian memories of growing up in Flatbush. Though one story is set in London, most of them are placed in various towns of upstate New York. ""The New Honesty""--when it pulls away from its sad protagonist--does offer an appealing mixture of comedy and pathos: a middle-aged couple mistakenly believe that their belongings will fetch a fortune from a traveling-through antiques dealer. But the other stories never pull far enough back to involve supporting characters; they round obsessively on this one lost, moony man. And, so narrowly nozzled, these pieces often seem to be assembled out of mere description and observations: ""There the high hot bushes ended, the path spilled out into a low hilly lawn before the small woodframe farmhouse that was backed by a meadow and then the hills that caught the air and kept it there in muggy weather, and that held the house in something like a palm. Even the hills were knotted like knuckles, and even the lawn before me was like the thick ridge of muscle at the base of a person's hand."" Airless, spark-less fiction overall, then--claustrophobic in its brooding self-involvement and in its inertial heaping-up of literate yet unfocused prose.