Nine varied, lively, and beguiling stories from the ever-improving author of, most recently, Carolina Moon (1996). If you still think southern fiction is all about decaying antebellum mansions, miscegenation, and disturbing family secrets, you owe it to yourself to read McCorkle. Not that she shuns such matters—it’s just that her amiably unstrung characters keep reminding us that, even while psyches and marriages are collapsing, dishes pile up in the sink, and sometimes dirty laundry is, well, just clothes that have to be washed and hung on the line. She’s wonderful with beleaguered or comically resourceful women: a pregnant one trying to quit smoking and shape up generally (“Life Prerecorded”); an entrepreneur who markets funerals for “the soon-to-be deceased” (“It’s a Funeral! RSVP”); and, most memorably, a single mother obsessed with her own and her young son’s vulnerability (“A Blinking, Spinning, Breathtaking World”). If McCorkle stumbles with a monologue addressed by a man’s mistress to his wife (“Your Husband Is Cheating On Us”), suggesting the two murder him together, she shines when widening her lens to examine (“Paradise”) the seriocomic chemistry between a New York Jew (Adam) and an Atlanta fashion designer (Eve) hung up on “the North-South thing,” or a young clergyman’s uncertain ministry (“The Anatomy of Man”). She has a deadly eye for endearingly ludicrous detail (weddings and funerals bring out her best), a genius for piquant first-person narration, and a finely tuned ear for the accents of exasperated domesticity (“If Jesus were here he would take that child outside and wear his butt out”). Her stories meander even when they’re comparatively tightly plotted—but it’s always a pleasure staying with them just to hear her people rattle on. The work of an accomplished comic writer who’s continually refining her skills and expanding her range. McCorkle is gradually becoming our contemporary Eudora Welty.