In this second of a series, a gaggle of contemporary short-fiction writers select their favorite stories, explain their rationales and, sometimes, comment on the creative process as well. Occasionally, the choices may be idiosyncratic, but the anthology is generally satisfying and varied. Some of the stories (Peter Taylor's "The Gift of the Prodigal," about an aging Virginia lawyer's protective relationship with his "bad" son; and Mona Simpson's "Lawns," about an ingratiating co-ed thief sexually abused by her father) will already be familiar to short-story aficionados; many of the others have appeared in the New Yorker (Bobbie Ann Mason's "Memphis," about a divorced Kentucky woman's problematic relationship with her ex-husband; Frederick Barthelme's "Cooker"); in The Atlantic Monthly (Mark Helprin's "The Pacific," an eloquent love story about a woman who works in a WW II airplane instruments factory while her husband fights in the Pacific); in Playboy (notably, Andre Dubus' "The Curse," about a bartender who must face his guilt after passively witnessing motorcyclists gangrape an innocent woman); in Esquire and Harper's. A few of the best (notably, Isabel Huggan's "Orpha Knitting," about a woman who knits to save herself from the ordinary dyspepsia of life in a middle-class household) were first published in regional forums or the small press, and receive wide attention here for the first time. Opens no new ground, but does find a new angle by giving a group of mostly well-known writers a chance to comment on work they themselves have chosen.