These small prose pieces by poet Strand deal in tiny ironies; yet, unlike the short poetic pieces of Julio Cortazar or W.S. Merwin, Strand's nuggets of fiction seem extremely sour and self-conscious. The title piece--about a pathetic, narcissistic marriage that becomes paralytic--is curt enough to leave a snide aftertaste; in ""The General""--a commander in wars of indecision, poetry, and velleity--there's the same tint of bad temper, of strong authorial disapproval. Interestingly, in fact, Strand's pieces seem to reserve their sharpest scorn for the very styles of imprecision and inaction often found in his own eerily bland poetry. (The poet-president in ""The President's Resignation"" admits: ""From the beginning I have preached melancholy and invention, nostalgia and prophecy. . . I have always spoken for what does not change, for what resists action, for the stillness at the center of man."") And most of these snippets lack punch, with ironies that are distinguished mostly by their terse presentation: mini-myths of metamorphosis or stymied sexual attraction. Literary bonbons, serious in intent but not strong enough to stand up to thoughtful consideration.