First installment of an annual short-story anthology--with largely familiar names at (mostly) their less-than-best. Andre Dubus' baseball story, based on a real incident of locker-room catatonia, is somewhat sentimental and slack. Alice Adams' ""Time In Santa Fe""--friends catching up on the troubles in their lives--is inert; a Margaret Atwood allegory--male interest in cooking turns into yet another hegemony--is strained. Ellen Gilchrist's ""The Young Man""--in which a middle-aged Southern widow orders a consort from the L. L. Bean catalogue--is amusing but slightly too precious. And there are five self-conscious stories--by Elizabeth Tallent, Richard Ford, Elizabeth Cox, Rick DeMarinis, and Tobias Wolff--that are nearly and remarkably interchangeable: all are based on the off-plumb arranging of emotional snippets and odd situations; all are written in the style of the New Flatness (blunted affect, penny-plain language), a manner which only Raymond Carver seems to be able to carry off consistently. Two individualistic stories stand out, then: Daniel Menaker's ""Brothers,"" a cunningly and movingly paced tale of sudden, unexpected death; and, above all, Bobbie Ann Mason's ""Hunktown""--with Country-&-Western illusions meeting reality in one of her best efforts to date. In sum: an unimpressive round-up for the most part, especially when compared to John Updike's recent eclectic anthology in the Best American Short Stories series (p. 775).