Eleven stories and a novella by Sodowsky, whose Things We Lose was an Associated Writing Programs prizewinner. The long title novella, which anchors the collection, concerns academic life in a West Texas town that's interrupted by the arrival of an older but vivacious stranger. In that novella, Andrew Corwin is a stereotypical Weltschmerz professor who by degrees forgoes his 1960's idealism for promised tenure. He and fellow teacher Barbara get a nicer house, a nicer car, when suddenly Virginia Stone, in her 60s, becomes their neighbor. Soon enough she has the entire town involved in her soirÃ‰es, her allergies, and her passions. Finally, terminal, she kills herself in grand style, whereupon the marriage of the Corwins goes kaput. As for the other, less academic offerings, ""World War II"" is an anecdotal account of those years in the life of the narrator; ""Nineswander's Fence"" is about a boy who comes of age while living in a converted chickenhouse on the Doty farm, where he has a thing for Mrs. Doty and develops so much independence (he's a reader) that the Dotys finally run him off, though in kindly fashion; ""Talking at a Slant"" concerns a narrator whose oblique conversations with his mother actually concern social classes: the narrator snubs the girls he takes out to please his mother because ""they marketed themselves as grimly as Harold Newgiver sold seed wheat."" ""Tearing the House Down"" is a tale that effectively enough uses a step-by-step destruction of the homestead as a coming-of-age metaphor. In all, though, a competent but undistinguished potpourri.