A compendium of gossip--in disconnected, dense little chunks of folksy minibiography--about some real and not so real inhabitants of upstate New York's Washington County, up around Lake George. Inevitably, Spoon River Anthology is what first comes to mind. ""She ran off with another man, they always say of Edna Ball. Never say who."" But Spyker's taste is more for the elegantly gruesome than Edgar Lee Masters' was: scratch a burgher here, you're likely as not to find a fascist or fornicator, a cultist or a weirdo. The prose is studiedly hewn--""Born in a pesthole, sired by a lout and a jade, and treated most cruelly by both throughout his childhood, Cack the Sissy grew up in our midst to wear his nickname of Opprobrium like a war decoration."" And some of the stories do indeed have that special oddness only truth admits. But what's the point of all this granny-squared quilting? The last mini-biography here is of that fine poet William Bronk, who really exists--and perhaps is the real writer behind the pseudonymous ""John Howland Spyker."" If so, it's just one more coy touch in an ephemeral work that often seems merely an exercise in coy tone.