A welcome arrival from Canada, Hollingshead (in his first US publication) points out a new direction to readers tired of the nihilistic banalities of postmodernism. Immediately striking about Hollingshead (author of three story collections and a novel in Canada) is the gravity of his voice, which is authorial and strong even in its comic mode. The narration is unambiguous and sharp throughout this collection, even when the narrator--as is often the case--hasn't the first clue as to what's really going on around him. Thus, the homeowner protagonist of ""The Side of the Elements"" who sublets his house for a year and returns to find strangers holding a wake in his living room, can manage to be poised and philosophical in the midst of his confusion. The writer-in-residence of ""Rose Cottage"" is even more unflappable: After trying to come to the aid of a wealthy elderly lady whom he suspects of being beaten by her nurse, he finds himself passively succumbing to the advances of her middle-aged son. There is a tendency toward bizarre revelations among many of Hollingshead's characters. The real estate man of ""The Appraisal"" who comes to look at a house, take pictures and check the plumbing, talks like a character out of the Book of Revelations (""Maybe last year you could get more. Now nothing is selling. The West has entered a long economic as well as moral decline""). And the sleazy landlord of ""How Happy They Were,"" who guts his buildings, exploits his tenants, and blithely steals an exchange student's girlfriend, turns out to be a member of an exotic cult. Wild, weird, and wonderful: Hollingshead has perfectly fitted his voice to his subject and crafted these tales with astonishing skill.