Adams has chosen an oddly weak clutch of exemplars, though there are exceptions. Alice Munro's "Friend of My Youth"--a story that tells about a teller telling a tale, managing astoundingly to align both perfectly--once more reminds us that Munro is the living master of the form. Deborah Eisenberg, with "The Custodian," suggests an heir apparent: a subtle and gossamer story that in cumulative effect becomes a vicious entrapment: brilliant. Charles Baxter's Detroit story, "The Disappeared," compels. Mary Gordon's "Separation" is a sere piece of pity. But then the drop-off starts. Millicent Dillon's "Oil and Water" and Robert Olen Butler's "The Trip Back" are interesting but unsurely executed. Middling John Updike and Lorrie Moore stories don't make much of a mark. And, finally, there are stories by Rick Bass, Charles D'Ambrosio, Jr., Elizabeth Graver, Siri Hustvedt, David Jauss, and Amy Bloom that strut the workshop style--flat, self-involved shadowboxing--disspiritingly. As buffets go: eh.