This is a very aptly titled collection of uncomfortable short stories by the critic who has attracted a good deal of attention, and argument, with Love and Death in the American Novel and other works. Mr. Fiedler's fictional characters generally engage in stripping themselves of even the most reassuring human vanities. Most of them are thinkers- and Jews, obsessed with hatred of their flesh and viewing the outer world through their neuroses. Their minds are as uncomfortable as a bed full of crumbs. In perhaps the most representative story, a group of successful intellectuals gather for dinner, criticize each other's accomplishments, politics and marital relationships in increasingly acrid and personal terms, and wind up playing croquet together naked- bare of everything but the grotesque flesh of a disillusioned middle age. In another story, a man after two dreams in which he played the roles of victim and executioner, awakes to remember that he is a Negro -- a nightmare from which there is no escape. Abie Peckelis, a homosexual shoe clerk, deliberately and horribly subjects himself to ridicule; a summer college professor is forcibly and nearly seduced by a girl whose husband has become impotent in his desire to write poetry; etc., etc. All of the people in these small in-groups are hopelessly stained by awareness, by race, by the conflict between the flesh and the intellect, and they have lost the illusion of release through love or other satisfactions. They are part of our times, and they achieve a savage reality, unpleasant as it is.