Berry, a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, reflects the graduate-workshop mode at its most sterile: these stories tend to be academic, contrived, over-strenuous or smug, with metaphors given top priority. ""Song of the Geometry Instructor"" offers a mish-mashed stewing of life in a Florida blizzard--with spatial models and a survival theme. ""Paradise Lost"" presents a wife who's rotting, physically falling apart, turning into her smaller daughter--while corporate society goes bananas. ""Apples"" juggles William Tell, Adam & Eve, and Cezanne; ""A Decisive Refutation of Herbert Dingle's Objection to Einstein's Twin Paradox, or Gravitas"" is an extended fantasia on a rapidly dulling theme (physics and dalliance); and the opening sentence of ""A Circle ls The Shape of Perfection"" is--""On the morning of his thirtieth birthday Harry Sneltzer woke to the disquieting realization that he was becoming his father."" Only one story here goes beyond such literary games and arch posturings: ""Metempsychosis,"" a shaggy evocation of the pressured days of a guitarist/studio-musician. Everywhere else, unfortunately, these pieces seem to have been made up as elaborate illustrations of gimmicky titles--with the influence of Thomas Pynchon all too obvious in the mannered science/humanity tropes. (Pynchon himself makes fun of some of these tendencies in his introduction to the recent Slow Learner.) In sum: a juiceless, self-conscious debut collection.