Typical prejudices about the Irish slyly skewered to varying effect. In 12 tales set mostly in Galway and frequently narrated by a disaffected academic, Fitzpatrick highlights popular notions of Irish life--the promiscuous priest, the wild poet, the mad professor, and the virgin who loves men's minds more than their bodies--and takes them to their logical excess. In ``A Free Man,'' a professor of Sanskrit ``evades the drudgery of life'' by having a nervous breakdown, which allows him to do whatever he likes (``He doesn't go to faculty meetings, he spends five months of every year with the Maharish Mahesh Yogi....He is the only free man I know''). In ``The Missionary,'' Father Boniface, a priest who loves women too much, is sent as a penance to Manila, where, as usual, he attracts a coterie of women, including Imelda Marcos. Later, back in Ireland, even his imminent death becomes a drawing card for women as he preaches sermons to the hospice ``ladies,'' bringing a ``strange kind of peace.'' O'Sullivan, the would-be poet famous for his imagination, ``finds it very pleasant to be Irish in Paris'' (``O'Sullivan in the Luxembourg Gardens''), but his poetry has an extraordinary effect on the few people who read it. The beautiful student Finnula (``The English Disease''), wanting ``somebody with a mind,'' loses her virginity to her Moral Tutor, a ``civilized, brilliant'' man who even in making love can't ``relinquish the habit of logical and cogent thinking.'' Other fables describe a man who founds a short-lived religion (``Shambala Way''); a divorced man rejected by his family (``Easter Journey''); and a couple who find happiness as ghosts (``An Unusual Couple''). Stylishly witty sendups, though at times both intentions and effects show the strain. Despite it all, still quintessentially Irish.