With this short-story collection heavy on shock and schlock, the co-creator of the popular documentary The Atomic. Cafe proves that her novel--the hip, self-indulgently empty Between Pictures (1987)--was no aberration. Loader is at her best when she mimics the writing of the marginally lettered; in "I Was A Hollywood Sex Slave by Carrie Jo Starkweather" ("This is my True Confession I write for you to print in your magazine. Please send the money now"), a Nebraska housewife, married to an Aryan Nation survivalist, recounts her supposed ordeal in the beds of Tom Cruise and Don Johnson--a near-perfect, very funny rendering of the sort of desperate fantasy that surfaces in editorial slush piles. And the letters in "Found in a Trunk in Springfield, Ohio" read like real ones, as the relationships among three men and a woman at the time of WW I slowly become apparent, along with their emotions, underneath the polite formulas of their era. But two stories can't redeem a collection based largely on the idea that Americans are turning (often literally) into animals: Mr. Skerrit (of "Mr. and Mrs. Skerrit") becomes a wolf and kills his little son; in the mercifully brief "Song of the Fucked Duck," a fading southern belle in taffeta rescues a duck after it's been raped by two boys and sees it transformed into the handsome Mr. R.N. Drake. Accounts of substance-abusers, depraved rednecks, HIV-positive lovers, child molesters, and fast-lane artistic types--all handled in too sophomoric a fashion to move the reader, or even, at times, to shock.