This past year has certainly proved that short stories can be best sellers, and in these stories of modern China, Pearl Buck has done some of her finest work of recent years. Many of them have appeared in magazine form, but taken as a group, their exceptional quality stands out. Some of them have a mission background, and reveal the earnest efforts of the missionaries to touch the inner lives of their people -- and their failure, or seeming failure, which is in itself a sort of success. Some are stories of conflict between the generations -- Old China against New China -- Western educated Chinese against those who have been brought up in the old traditions. There are glimpses behind the scenes in the camps of the war lords; there are episodes revealing the courage of the untutored simple peasants, there is, again and again, the overhanging cloud of the Japanese threat, although only two of the stories are actually war stories. For the most part, her characters are drawn from the middle classes, rather than the peasant class. And her style is keyed to the mood and the time. On her name, should have rental as well as sales possibilities.