The first US publication of two early (1950's) novellas by the accomplished Ginzburg (No Way, The City and the House). Each tells of a family disintegrating when an act of blind selfishness punctures a delicate casing of dreams. In Valentino, a preening medical student absorbs all the love and money in his poor family. So powerful is their dream that Valentino will become a ""man of consequence"" that his long-suffering parents even enlist the sympathy of their neglected daughter, narrator Caterina. Inexplicably, however, Valentino marries rich and homely Maddalena; his father's distress is so great that he sickens and dies--as does his mother. Caterina moves in with her brother and sister-in-law after her mother's death, and witnesses and weighs Maddalena's gruff generosity against Valentino's vain idleness. Meanwhile, Maddalena's cousin, a daily companion of Valentino's, proposes marriage to Caterina--and then retracts his offer. When he commits suicide, Caterina learns how her brother selfishly uses all who loved him. In Sagittarius, a restless widow moves to the city with frail daughter Guila and Guila's unprepossessing doctor husband. Neither the city nor Guila--nor the plain, scholarly daughter who narrates--lives up to mother's expectations. She assuages her disappointment with a new friend. Meeting daily in cheap coffee-bars, the pair scheme about starting an art gallery. The widow stakes her children's legacy on the dream--heartache and, finally, tragedy ensue. Each novella has its understated, exquisite moments, but neither achieves the gentle miracles of Ginzburg's mature work, and will leave most Ginzburg admirers hungering.