Seventeen stories, selected by the Annual Editor of the Best American Short Stories series. ""Southern"" still has a geographical meaning, explains Ravenel, but it has even more to do with ""that Southern thing--how much home matters."" Readers may or may not find that measure useful in this uneven volume. Max Apple's ""Bridging"" (a father tries to regain his nine-year-old daughter's confidence after her mother's death) manages to control sentiment and make it touching, but numerous other stories lose their guard and become either artificial, mawkish, or tiredly derivative. Kurt Rheinheimer's ""Umpire"" is an exception (immensely readable story of a country-league umpire heckled by the fans), though its ending veers toward the inexplicably sweet and nostalgic. Another near miss is Elizabeth Harris' ""The World Record Holder"" (a trouble-prone single mother can't pull her life together), which gallops with life but then thins out into a frail gimmick, while David Huddle's ""Summer of the Magic Show"" (a brother reveals himself to be cruelly resentful of women) both evokes and sustains its subject nicely. James Lee Burke's ""The Convict"" (white man helps black convict) is conventional but vivid, as is Suzanne Brown's ""communion,"" in which a middle-aged hairdresser arranges the hairdo on her own dead mother. From these, though, is a rude descent into the shallow, fast-forward hyperbole of Ron Carlson's ""Air"" (loathesome roughneck boys scare and revolt a girl), Mary Hood's deeply clichÃ‰d ""Something Good for Ginnie"" (hopelessly spoiled high-school tease sexually torments an adoring retard), or to the gruel-thin stereotyping of Gloria Norris' ""Holding On"" (New York hippies bait local redneck in Southern cafe: "" 'Je-suz,' said the dark-bearded man looking around, 'when's the next lynching?'""). Strokes of writerly skill fail to temper the shamelessly saccharine America-first flavor of W.A. Smith's ""Delivery"" (a doctor suffers, years later, from WW II wounds), or of Wallace Whatley's ""Something to Lose"" (a dead airman is remembered). Some hits, but disproportionate to the misses.