The latest in this excellent annual series includes 25 stories that represent a much wider stylistic range than the average American anthology. Big names (Munro, Gordimer, Trevor, Weldon) contribute, but there are also many writers unknown on this side of the Atlantic and stories that have been heard only on the BBC. The ``Troubles'' in Ireland inspire a number of fine pieces here: Carlo Gebler's ``The Headscarf'' transforms a harmless trip to the beautician into an exercise in fear. In Bernard McLaverty's ``The Wake House,'' a Catholic widow forces her son to accompany her to a wake of a Protestant neighbor. And William Trevor's ``Lost Ground'' brilliantly spins on received ideas when a Protestant boy in Ulster publicly insists he was visited by a ``papist'' saint. Nadine Gordimer's ``Look-Alikes'' is a political allegory about the homeless people who appear on a university campus, and South African Christopher Hope provides a historical story of English servicemen whose families colonize a small development. Sex preoccupies many of the writers included here. In David Belbin's ``Different Ways of Getting Drunk,'' the female narrator finds happiness in a lesbian bar while continuing with her accountant boyfriend; and in Michelle Heinemann's ``Nana's Dance,'' a husband and wife separately seduce a voluptuous belly-dancer. Tony Musgrave's ``Bel'' is a young woman's post-coital monologue, and Geoff Nicholson's ``The Guitar and Other Animals'' concerns a woman who finds sexual fulfillment in her strange performance pieces. Jane Gardam's ``Bevis'' is a Hardyesque tale of a childhood romance that turns on a mistake in identity. Comic pieces range from Martin Amis's ``Career Move,'' a one-joke idea taken to its extreme, to Jonathan Treital's ``Stalin, Stalin, and Stalin,'' a surreal bit chronicling the declining fortunes of a group of Stalin doubles. Alice Munro's ``A Real Life'' is a beautiful story about an improbable marriage--surely the best thing here. Even the lesser stories take chances with subject or genre- -which makes for a truly exciting and surprising anthology.