Six anecdotal stories of the post-1950 American-expatriate life--mildly amusing or glossily sentimental tales, all narrated by the presumably autobiographical ""Richard,"" a singer/photographer/filmmaker. In ""Privileged People,"" the narrator heads for Paris as a young would-be singer, runs across his black girlfriend Olivia from N.Y. (who claims to be the first US woman to wear an Afro), shares a teenage-boy lover with her, and years later sees her again--when they've both rather soured on Paris and old ambitious dreams. There are, as in recent non-fiction by William Murray and Paul Hofmann, harsh glimpses of the increasingly ugly aspects of urban Italy--a murdered American drug-dealer, a pathetic addict, Milan as ""a city of discouragements,"" the apartment shortage, crass fashion-merchants; de Combray finds enduring Italian charm, however, in a gentlemanly robber and a nerveless con-man (who passes Richard off as Peter O'Toole at a provincial awards dinner). But in only two stories does narrator Richard, a strangely faceless and unengaging presence throughout, attempt more than the merest bittersweet observations: one episodic piece traces the loves of Richard's aggressively bright chum Elliot, who finds a perfect soulmate in equally literary Sally but is later seen courting Italian maid Giglia--while Richard's envy/irritation provides a bit of welcome tension; and in the slightly saccharine ""The Lady Who Lived in the Woods,"" Richard befriends an older American woman whose treasured South-of-France existence is financially endangered (""I can't leave it and go back to America, where I'll be just another lonely woman pushing a cart in a supermarket""). Readable, elegant vignettes for those attuned to the rarified atmospheres--but, as in de Combray's non-fictional Caravansary (1978), there's a lack of full-blooded personality and connection throughout these smooth, surface-y stories.