Taiwan, catch-basin of China's own diaspora, is the setting for all these contemporary stories, each warmed by Pai's cross-class empathies. Widows of aviators and generals either accept mortality too well (""A Touch of Green"") or not at all (the title story). Catamites (""A Sky Full of Bright Twinkling Stars"") and taxi-dancers (""Taipan Chin,"" ""Love's Lone Flower"") lead precarious lives--but so do scholars (""Winter Night""). Meanwhile in the noodle shop of ""Glory's By Blossom Bridge,"" the present is sordid--because inauthentic--whereas the past of the mainland is stubbornly, heroically golden. Pai's focus frequently is on the desperate attempt to hold onto past culture (Chinese opera, for instance, in the title story); he shows how these exiles use art, food, or mah-jong to achieve a certain, solitary freedom--by dreaming backwards. And the result here is a sociologically diverse, humane, quite sad set of stories: a necessary piece in the picture of contemporary Chinese letters.