Gina Berriault prefaces her short stories with an aphorism by Jose Ortegay Gasset: ""Every life is more or less a ruin among whose debris we have to discover what the person ought to have been."" Miss Berriault is an apt delineator of ruin. Her characters, in a great many of the stories, are desiccated intellectuals-- gray people, inhabiting gray rooms, reporting to and fatigued by gray jobs. A cultured girl who works for the telephone company is married to an asthmatic who begins to appreciate cats. His dissatisfaction with his lot increases as he feels a consanguinity with the great men of history who had also loved cats... Two ex-lovers meet in the park and she remembers the excitement of their youthful courtship. Some of the stories are about adolescent sexual awakening, with an emphasis on a complex of Electras: a young girl feels she has betrayed her mother when she observes her father chatting intimately with a former mistress, seeing him for the first time as ""a man apart from his family""; another young girl spurns the advances of her dead mother's paramour; etc., etc. Gina Berriault is a writer of substance and quality who brings precious, strange perceptions to somber, dour lives.