In thirteen fine short stories, Goldberg probes his Jewish past amid a cast of losers so painfully ordinary that they become memorable. The Jewish kid working in the pig slaughterhouse, the factory worker deliberately burning himself as the Rosenbergs die, the mugged good Samaritan scribbling checks for worthy causes--Goldberg's people combat the overwhelming contradictions of their lives with small, defiant gestures. The interplay of public event and private trouble is Goldberg's theme and strength: the depression, the Rosenberg execution, La Causa, Vietnam. Sometimes the connection seems humorous (""our kids haven't tasted grapes in eight years!""), sometimes tragic, as when young Joshua dies in a Vietnamese rice paddy. Always the unstated problem haunts: how to be human in a society that passes off causes and rituals as authentic social life. In fantasy (often pathetically erotic), fact, dream, and memory, Goldberg worries the issue in restrained, elliptical prose. When a fellow named Israel becomes a silent witness, lurking in courtrooms to send vibes (Innocent!) at the jury, his stepson speculates that ""since my mother and I have led such ordinary lives, this Israel, who is inflicted on us, must be an ordinary lunatic."" Ordinary, yes, and about as cheerful as another story's picnic in the graveyard. And as vivid.