A prize-winning collection of short stories from Japanese writer Maruya (Singular Rebellion, 1986--not reviewed) that skillfully explores the transience of life--and the moment--in complex narratives, rich in insight and wry commentary. Two of the stories--""Tree Shadows"" and ""Rain in the Wind""--are novella length. In the First, the narrator, a writer, dismisses a French theory of child development only to find that his lifelong obsession (both in his writing and his life) with the inexplicable image of a tree casting a shadow on a wall may be more relevant than he had thought. ""Rain in the Wind"" is superficially a literary detective story, with the literary details sometimes threatening to overwhelm the narrative. Just before WW II, the narrator's father and a friend visited Shikoku, where they met a Buddhist priest in a rainstorm. While they waited the storm out, the men drank sake, told stories, and talked politics. As the priest left, his father's friend remarked that the weather reminded him of ""driven rain,"" a phrase the priest seemed very taken with, repeating it several times. The narrator, a teacher of Japanese literature, is intrigued by the story and begins to wonder whether the priest was perhaps the famous poet Santoka--who had not only been in Shikoku at the same time as his father but had used the phrase ""driven rain"" in a number of his poems. Obsessed with proving the connection, he finally learns as much about his father as about the priest, and--more importantly--that it was ""wiser to leave the scattered pieces as they ale than to assemble them."" The two shorter stories--a man recalls an old fistfight, and a geisha girl lets her lover believe a lie--are also explorations of what is the truth and what is not. Maruya is a writer more in the European tradition--interested as much in ideas as the imagination. Here, his intellectual preoccupations are nicely balanced by his fine writing and vivid evocations of scene and character. A writer of growing accomplishment.