These seven interlocking stories, a black comedy of modern life, are a curiosity. Described as ""collective work"" rather than collaboration by Ascher/Straus, the authors of the surreal experimental novel The Other Planet (p. 580), they mix precise celebratory descriptions of a mysterious color-drenched world with long passages of tedious dialogue, Finally they strain too often to be hip, and the result is an amphetamine blur of frantic satire, cutesiness, and delicate poetry. In ""Talking About Jerry, Cherry, Pammy and Don,"" Don is a sociopath who gets a job through the auspices of Pammy, who becomes his sounding-board for office paranoia and crazy schemes. ""Second Life""--a delicate narrative about an older woman and her dying lover--is full of intimations of mysterious worlds and surprises. ""The Accomplice"" gives us Donald again, this time on the phone, lying his teeth off, talking about troubled Rudi (Pam's brother) and Ted (her husband). It's frantic and high-strung, but too derivative of contemporary types to be funny. ""The Anniversary"" brings together these young lost souls with some of their parents for a nonstop drunken barrage of tasteless banter. In ""The Brother,"" Rudi has moved in with Para and Ted. He might have cancer, he might not. Nobody knows anything, and this time we're barraged with non sequiturs. ""How the Day Passes"" effectively grafts violence and the threat of violence onto ordinary events, but it lacks cohesion. And, finally, in the title story, Rudi has gone mad (he might not even be Rudi), and Donald runs off to Alaska with Pam. Some readers may find the book chic: a portrait of contemporary aimlessness and disorientation shot through with references to the media-saturation and celebrity-ache of our times. But too often the collaboration hovers over or rushes through ideas, moods and characters, so that it becomes what it satirizes, like a bad French movie with intellectual pretensions.