A short, elegant collection of eight stories--usually about men and women who've withdrawn into worlds of their own making. ""Cathy is Sailing"" is an exquisite portrait, flatly told, about a woman, disappointed in love, who by degrees withdraws into a secret vice: she spends her night sweeping and ""sailing"" with a broom. Likewise, in ""Lorenzo's Collection,"" a man, alone in his high-rise for a year with an ""addiction to his playthings,"" hallucinates images: a fishtank, a cast-iron elephant, ranks of black soldiers, five blocks of Madison Avenue, and, finally, in a surreal Borgesian closure, he hallucinates himself. The pieces, at their best, often become evocative and mysterious investigations into the nature of revery or compulsive routine. In the title story, Mrs. Simpson, also high above Park Avenue, is compelled by a separation agreement with her husband to keep bottles and kettles filled with hot water--though she also finds time for regular visits to a randomly chosen nightclub. In ""The UPS Man,"" maybe the book's highlight, an impostor drives the canyons near Boulder in a step-van, appropriately painted, and pretends to be the UPS man--yet another fantasy realized, this time in public fashion. Meanwhile, ""Ronald Colman"" and ""Breakdown on Broadway"" are nicely absurd but a little mannered, while ""The Town by the River,"" long and ambitious, is interesting but doesn't quite hold together. A little precious, then, but fiction that draws a circle around a limited area of experience and successfully claims that area as its own.