Seven stories--each involving the beastly tendency that so fascinated Henry James: the way one person can toy with another person's life in the same manner that an artist tinkers with his work. In ""Beauty and the Beast,"" a fat, slovenly, masochistic mother ""wanted to take a profound, immense, soaring interest"" in her spolled, sniveling, artist-manque son, ""and she wanted him to do something profound and immense and soaring to justify this interest."" When the son doesn't deliver, she slims down radically, and goes off to marry an exconcentration-camp guard: that'll teach the kid. Many of the stories share this basic resolution: dominance escalating into real evil; if you can't bend someone to your will, you destroy him. Fleetwood (Roman Magic, etc.) has a naturally delicate touch, but too often it leaves him here; the psychology is woodenly obvious, and the punches are badly telegraphed. Odd, unappetizing work.