Richard Stern is one of those extremely gifted writers who ""fit into such a small repertory""--actually his habitat is that of Bellow's or Malamud's ""intellectual stragglers"" or almost-might-have-beens, many of them of faintly European-Jewish extraction and blackly, bleakly comic inflection. ""Dear God, what an artist had to become in America""--sometimes no more than the hapless casualty of an almost impossible time. Thus the ""fortissimo monologue"" of ""Veni, Vidi. . . Wendt"" (the short novel) in which the self-advertising Wendt joylessly contemplates his wife, more enthusiastically tumbles another's, and in a very nice last scene is letting go. . . of his son. Or the writer of books unwritten in ""Ins and Outs"" or the plagiarist-artist in another story, or the daydreaming activist-academics of a Chicago university brutalized in the scene they'd just come to witness: In these three the staccato of violence emphasizes the contemporary configurations and breaks up the sour speculations on the characters' ""secret welts."" Mr. Stern, a very good critic and author of Golk, Stitch his last novel--1965) is a spiky, stylish, exacerbating commentator and 1968 features some relevant if random scrap artistry.