The themes are quintessentially Atwoodian: a little terror, a lot of ennui, and women's hunger for exactly the things they detest most (or so they think). But those themes emerge somewhat less effectively from these stories than they usually do from Atwood's poems and novels. In "The Man From Mars," a fat college girl is hounded by an importunate foreign exchange student; from harmless pest, he turns into sexual predator, then ultimately a necessary (if fantastical) drug for the girl. "Dancing Girls" also treats of foreignness: a Toronto boardinghouse in which speculation is as strong as reality. In "When It Happens," a farm wife ponders the specifics of the end of the world; "Betty" evokes the tawdry mysteriousness of a spurned wife; in "Under Glass," a sloppy boyfriend is so disorderly as to be caught unfaithful to his girl just before they're to move in together. And in at least another four stories, too, romantic couples come off as casualties--with Atwood's frequently brilliant tableaux of frustration and mutual disappointment. (Also striking: the use of Toronto's internationalism as background in some of the work here.) Still, the story form finally seems a little inhospitable to Atwood's unsparingly discomforting talent, which benefits most from a poem's distillation or a novel's large clemency; and these pieces, too short for real development but long enough to become terribly dreary, offer only flickering evidence of Atwood's substantial gifts.