Shuttling back and forth in time and place (from America--where Sam Richardson is first seen working with the State Department--to Paris, Greece, Italy) these short pieces touch inner surfaces of experience and are casually affiliated by the members of the Richardson family--particularly son Scobie, who will be a writer. They have appeared in The New Yorker and earned a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award. Tentative, mobile, gentle--all are filled with a certain nostalgia for the moment that has just passed, a definite if sometimes ""indifferent, terrifying sadness,"" a residual romanticism--all within the affective liens of a family that was together once, meets again for the first time in eight years for a Christmas in Venice. In between Scobie is seen with one girl or another, never quite settling down. The stories--almost too emphatic a definition--are softly stated recognitions --rather surprisingly temperate and acceptant in such a young writer. Bromell is so unassuming that we should not underestimate his talent--he writes with a word-perfect simplicity few ever achieve.