Brodsky (Detour, 1977) has been praised as a postmodern innovator, but these 13 stories--pedantic and self-indulgent--read like a mannered collaboration among Peter Handke (master of existential angst), Gertrude Stein, and Woody Allen. With notable exceptions, however, they have neither Handke's vivid precision nor Allen's accessible zaniness. Loophole in ""Breadwinner's Ethic"" is a typical protagonist: an underground man full of supercilious interior monologue, he starts for work on New Year's Eve in N.Y.C., has coffee with a co-worker, throws the coffee into his face, and then goes with him to a party--where he engages another co-worker in interminable declamation. Fear and loathing in the quotidian. As for the prose style, this, from the title story, is a typical example: "". . .X embodies a fight, my fight, to be. It might be more than an embodied negativity, a ranged void which has somehow managed to usurp the ground of my real being."" As for the exceptions, ""The Tenement"" is an interesting construction in captioned fragments about addiction and symbiosis; and throughout the book, separated by abstract impenetrable thickets of overwritten prose and half-baked ontology, are clever philosophical pranks and Joycean puns, lucid descriptions of psychic dislocation, and process analyses of inexplicable moments of attraction and repulsion--of mood shifts. In short, there's something here, but it's less than meets the eye. At best, this is an example of why metafiction (experimental fiction self-consciously aware of its own fictionality) has lost mainstream favor over the past 20 years.