A promising first collection of nine stories about men full of Weltschmerz and tangled up by affairs of the head; Shapiro's sardonic delivery is leavened by a black humor reminiscent of Bruce Jay Friedman. In the title story, Altshuler, an affluent shoe-designer, takes in his uncle Phil (``the dumb yutz''), who visits after being left by his wife of 42 years. Phil is a classic overeater and finally dies, but not before Altshuler learns one of life's lessons about forbearance and generosity. ``The Marine Mammal Guy,'' about a man who leaves his girlfriend in New Jersey to take a job as the ``Ape House promo whiz'' for the San Francisco Zoo, only to lose both girl and job before picking himself up from the floor, is vintage Friedman absurdism. ``After Hope'' is a meditation by a writer/narrator who settled for less than his early promise, but who remembers his salad days in the presence of Minnesota writer Thayer Hayes, who disappears in 1977, thereby fueling rumor and speculation. ``At the Wall'' is a powerful portrait of a shallow man, a tourist, who visits the Vietnam Memorial and faces his guilt in the form of a black man with no money for a bus home. ``Golders Green'' follows one Ted Lustig to London. A mediocre scholar who ostensibly researches Coleridge but secretively reads and empathizes with von Kleist, a young suicide victim who was ``still possessed of the knowledge that truth was knowable,'' Lustig comes to understand, though ambiguously, ``the connectedness of things....'' Some of these stories appeared in the Kenyon Review, Gettysburg Review, and other literary magazines. Mostly, Shapiro redeems his characters' angst without simplifying their predicaments or simplifying experience.