A first collection of 12 stories, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award for 1997. Henry's young characters decry the existential angst of the generation that preceded theirs, and yet often end up embracing it. In ``Mouthfeel,'' for instance, a married couple seems to have a happy future, until the wife begins to see pointlessness all around her and goes mad--the implication seeming to be that madness may be a sane response to a culture obsessed with throw-away goods, meaningless sex, and money that can never buy happiness. In the strange ``Motherhurt,'' Henry highlights depression in ordinary surroundings by wildly exaggerating the rituals that families go through to cheer up their own--in this case, a mother. The rituals begin to seem extreme, even bizarre. Henry appears to want to argue that insanity is only what we say it is, and that ``normal'' behavior is never far from insanity. ``Congressman Spoonbender,'' told in an exact, detached style, concerns an aging congressman who's losing his sense of purpose. He calls his mistress back in Ohio, who's drunk and getting drunker, to find his bearings, but she can't help, can't even understand him. Finally, Henry takes a rather maudlin turn in ``The Prodigal Corpse,'' in which the narrator's father returns from the grave to make a few astringent comments about life and death and to settle one score with his wife, who for 20 years was afraid of the word ``penis.'' After he's made her say the word, he's content to return to the grave. Ann Beattie, final judge for the award, compares Henry's sense of humor to Donald Barthelme's, and there is indeed a kind of skewed, grim, and even misanthropic comedy lurking here that may be what gives most promise to this debut.