A second collection of prima Esquire stories by its editor who has no particular predispositions or canons to advance. The 40 selections are purely an expression of Lish's taste, good taste be it said. Those who keep up with the contemporary writing which the anthology largely represents will be familiar with most of the contributors, many of whom appear more than once, many of whom are women (as against, say, five years ago). There are a few who are avant modern (Jonathan Baumbach, Frederick Busch, Don De Lillo). Some you will have read in their own collections: two by Cynthia Ozick, ""Bloodshed"" and ""Usurpation"" (a particularly difficult story of truth and fraud and talisman and metaphor where ""Philosopher stones make excellent lullabies""); Gall Godwin's ""False Lights"" flickering briefly between two wives of an aging novelist; Kotzwinkle's ""Horse Badorties."" There's also a Milan Kundera, a Grace Paley, a James Purdy; a John Cheever, taking place in different uncomfortable dissolves; a Harold Brodkey, presumably part of his long novel to come and returning to his Proustian-Oedipal beginnings. Several deal with old age or the ultimate loss: Hilma Wolitzer's ""Trophies""; Bruce Jay Friedman's ""back-to-back"" deaths of his parents: Alma Stone's gently malicious ""I'm Waving Tomorrow,"" in which two sisters takes their weekly outing to Woodlawn cemetery. Other surprises--in a collection that has quite a few--include Robley Wilson Jr.'s imaginary dispositions of Nixon, ""Saying Good-Bye to the President"" and Joy Williams' Jane-and-Jackson-and-David story told in terrifying Dick-and-Jane exchanges. . . . Is fiction dead? Is the short story its rustiest coffin nail? Surely Mr. Lish's divers stimulating writers will controvert these commercially expedient canards.