Like his novel Language in the Blood (above), Nelson's second collection (The Tennis Player, 1977) is strong on place, especially the American Southwest. The best of the 13 stories here are heartbreakers about people who learn to understand that the world is not circumscribed by their prejudices or limitations. In ``Learning to Dream,'' Rose, unable to dream, decides to do something about it without telling husband Henry. She sees a doctor, learns sign language, opens her horizons, and, most importantly, spends a great deal of secretive time at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, sitting before a Goya canvas (``She was overjoyed that her own small existence was so blessed''). This kind of quiet epiphany is typical, but Nelson seldom overplays his hand. Of the Southwest stories, ``The Spirits of Animals'' brings together a motley group who go bowhunting for antelope; the narrator accepts an Indian woman's decision to clap her hands at a crucial moment, scaring off a potential kill, and then mediates a violent confrontation between the same woman and Wayne, who is ``interested in killing something.'' Without pressing his point, Nelson brings to bear both a delicate sense of interaction between disparate personalities and the seductiveness of a Native American meshing with nature. Likewise, in ``Yellow Flowers,'' a couple in the Boston suburbs panic when their son Davis, only eight, begins to disappear regularly from school. The parents follow the boy and discover that he likes to take flowers to a church and sit in a pew--this moment, with which the father sympathizes, makes the story. Most of these pieces work that way, at a slant, so that situation and setting are integral to character. A fine collection, as outstanding and various as Christopher Tilghman's acclaimed In a Father's Place.