First published in Italy in 1972, these 22 stories--concerned largely with the fleetingness of life--leave a bittersweet aftertaste, as well as an admiration for the late author's ability to give resonance to the simplest words. Parise (Solitudes, 1975) employed the alphabet to liberate his lyric impulse, the stories in this 176-page volume running from ""Amore"" (Love) to ""Famiglia"" (Family). In 1982 appeared a second collection extended to the letter S, but at that point, as he said, ""poetry abandoned me"" and the project stopped. These brief tales do have the limpid density of good poetry, and in them Parise tackles his subjects obliquely. ""Love,"" for example, is about a man and a married woman who never consummate their attraction to each other; ""Soul"" is possessed by a street-dog who takes what life has handed to him; ""Beauty"" is found in the elemental existence of an illiterate peasant. Read one after the other, the pieces suggest a novel--or a life--that could be pieced together with clues the author withholds. A redheaded woman appears more than once, as does a boy with a stepfather. Many of the tales take place in northern Italy, in or around Venice. A life is obviously not what the author wanted to put down, but rather a sense of all life as an affair of sudden intensities and equally abrupt or lingering deflations. Natalia Ginzburg, in her afterword, aptly describes the ""immense melancholy"" that lies beneath the surface of even those passages in which Parise seems to celebrate life. Hypnotic, mood-inducing stories that cast a spell hard to shake.