The latest chapter in publishing's recent and relentless quest for young and undiscovered authors comes with a silly title and an obnoxious subtitle, the latter promising ""the Next Word in Contemporary American Fiction."" Given most of the evidence here, though, one hopes not. The shrewd marketing strategy for this anthology of 15 stories has 15 well-known writers (a predictable crew including Tobias Wolff, Joy Williams, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Joyce Carol Oates) introducing their choices in prose that reads like overheated book-jacket blurbs, Born from a feature in Equator magazine, the concept here yields few interesting choices. Two writers just graduated from that similar publishing venture, 20 Under 30, (Mona Simpson and Susan Minot) display a forgivable narcissism by picking serviceable stories much like their own work: Michele Owen's ""We Find Harris Again,"" like Anywhere But Here, concerns a strained mother-daughter relationship that's put to the test on a trip West; Alexis Ullman's young people of unquestioned privilege in ""Those in Peril in the Air"" could easily have drifted in from Monkeys. The indistinct voices heard in this mostly dull gathering are best left unidentified, but their deficiencies derive largely from stale subject matter and clumsy narrative strategies. There are exceptions: Pinckney Benedict's amusing ""Getting Over Arnette"" chronicles a sad night in the sorry lives of two no-counts: Anne U. Forer's ""Thanksgiving with Trudy,"" a charming memoir of that holiday as celebrated in New York's East Village, discovers a surprising innocence among these aging bohos; and Teresa Yunker's modest account of a first date (""Margaritas"") skitters along on dialogue worthy of David Mamet. The two most powerful pieces, though, come from seasoned writers in top form: Michael Stephen's ""Everlast"" is an old-fashioned, tough-minded bit of realism about a drunken old Irishwoman from Brooklyn taken in from the streets of Tampa, Fla., by a priest determined to make her face the sorry truth. And Douglas Bauer's ""Lore"" is a real stunner, a raw and sinewy tale of one man's uncontrollable rage. On the whole, though, more hype than type.