Eight disturbing, elegant tales that plumb the obsessive powers of the imagination. Graham, author of one previous collection (The Art of the Knock, 1984) and a novel (How to Read an Unwritten Language, 1995), demonstrates an uncanny ability to trace the ways in which fear and confusion short-circuit our lives. In ``Geology,'' a young woman, married to a fossil-obsessed geologist, at first happily embraces his view of the world as ``a vast collection of secrets'' and of life (which she had previously found to be marked by a ``dry sameness and stillness'') as a process of constant change, a dizzying progression of moments. But her peripatetic husband and imminent motherhood add an increasing edge of anxiety to the vision, until her image of human life as a swift, uncontrolled passage and change as all-powerful begin to block out everything else. Her descent into madness is powerful, unsettling, and convincing. In ``The Pose,'' a middle-aged woman, desperate to arouse her taciturn, invention-obsessed husband, uses one of her mate's odder ideas, an ``all-purpose'' clothes hanger in the shape of a human body, to attempt to reach him by re-creating an image of herself as a young, desirable woman. The sharp, droll ``The Reverse'' traces the way in which the commercials she films (parodies of the frantic, uncontrolled life of a housewife) begin to color and then (both wittily and savagely) to unhinge a young actress's view of her life. ``Lucky'' charts the growing obsession of an aging salesman with the declining health of his clientele; as they sicken and die off, he finds himself uncontrollably drawn to a volume detailing human anatomy and the indignities worked on it by illness and age. ``Angel'' follows a young boy, suddenly orphaned, as he becomes obsessed with the conviction that an angel shadows every moment of his life. Unique, somber terrain, precisely charted by a writer in absolute control of his material.