Hood, co-winner of the Flannery Acinar Award for Short Fiction this year (see Chemin, above), shines brightest with ""Inexorable Progress""--an urban story of a Southern Republican woman's last desperate days, filled with futile attempts at usefulness, sense, and identity. Elsewhere, Hood's South is a wilder, more rural locale: lawless bikers threatening a grandmother and pouty grandchild; a slain collie revenged. And perhaps the best of her full, dense narratives is ""Solomon's Seal""--about an old couple's ragged divorce. True, the lushness of Hood's vocabulary and phrasing sometimes intrudes between subject and narrator. (From ""Inexorable Progress"": ""That's how it was with Angelina: a tree stripped to the natural bone, soul-naked in the emptying wind. She was good at pretending; she hung color and approximations of seasonal splendor on every limb, and swayed like a bower in the autumn gales around her, but her heart was hollow, and her nests empty."") But this is an impressive debut collection nonetheless--by a writer whose work was one of the standouts in John Updike's Best American Short Stories anthology (p. 775).