In the latest Best American collection of 20, Erdrich makes all the expected and rightful choices--stories by John Updike, Alice Munro, Diane Johnson, Larry Woiwode, Mary Gordon, each of which rests on its own crafted base quite securely. She also makes two or three stabs toward the expressionistic--Stephen Dixon's "Man, Woman, and Boy"; Thom Jones's "I Want To Live"; Harlan Ellison's "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore." The overall impression of her choosings, though, is one of a tamed, blue-chip, safety-first congregation. Pieces by Andrea Lee, Mary Gaitskill, Alice Fulton, and Kim Edwards tightly hug their own moods but can't be amplified, be made to haunt; the few flaky, "voice driven" pieces--Tony Earley's "Charlotte" and Lorrie Moore's "Terrific Mother"--try too hard by half to achieve their zaniness. The best things here are a glitteringly sociological portrait of teenagers, "Poltergeists" by Jane Shapiro; a beautifully held-back, paced domestic story, "Naked Ladies," by the ever-more impressive Antonya Nelson; and the chaste symphonics of Wendell Berry's tale of destruction and forgiveness, "Pray Without Ceasing." These three stories are so outside--in a world allowed to feel as if beyond the control of their authors--that they seem sculptural. Everything else around them, their cohorts in this volume, come off in by as merely, if skillfully, anecdotal.