The second volume of this British-based series to appear in the US collects 25 stories by non-American writers of English, mostly from a wide range of Commonwealth publications, only a few of which are likely to have been seen stateside. Because the editors take more risks than their American counterparts, there's a greater range of quality, from Alice Munro's finely crafted tale of a dying opera star and her unassuming daughter (""Goodness and Mercy"") to Steve McGiffen's inept effort to capture a Deep South idiom in ""Geology,"" a clichÃ‰-ridden story of racism in the US. The other bit of Americana, D.J. Taylor's ""At Brackus's,"" unerringly records the difficult times of a Tennessee boy living in the shadow of his successful daddy. Two fact-derived, biographical pieces stand out for their remarkable inventiveness: William Boyd's account of Wittgenstein's relation to the troubled poet Georg Trakl (""Transfigured Night"") and Jonathan Treitel's provocative profile of Theodor Herzl's visit to turn-of-the-century Jerusalem (""Shaking Hands with Theodor Herzl""). Borges looms largely over the more experimental works: Russell Hoban's explicit homage to the Argentine master in ""The Man with a Dagger""; Gabriel Josipovici's short fable about a latter-day Scheherazade in ""Goldberg""; and Jenny Diski's fractured fairy tale, ""The Vanishing Princess or The Origins of Cubism,"" Gay writers are strongly represented by contributions from Desmond Hogan, Francis King, and Adam Mars-Jones. Childhood memories figure prominently in works by lesser knowns: Moy McCroy's humorous account of a Catholic girl's struggel over her possible vocation (""The Wrong Vocation""); David Park's Troubles-besmirched recollection of working in a Belfast fruit shop (""Oranges from Spain""); and Philip Oakes's fond remembrance of a brazen Cockney businessman (""Arthur Seal and the Hand of Fate""). Two of the better-known writers contribute overly slick and glib pieces: Hanif Kureishi's gossipy mix of sex and politics in ""Esther,"" and Frederic Raphael's tale of a Hollywood producer's revenge on his haughty wife, ""The Beverly Hills Snowman."" Even genre literature gets its due (Robert Grossmith's gothic tale, ""Company"") in this wonderfully varied annual collection.