It should come as no surprise that the latest Barthelme to put pen to paper should rely on the tried, if not always true, methods of his successful brothers, Frederick and Donald. Frederick's minimalist angst and his passion for the culture of cars are echoed in a number of narratives here. In ""Stoner's Lament,"" a lonely old man contemplates buying a new car when both he and his '66 Olds are treated like relics. The divorced market analyst of ""Liars"" walks on the wild side for a couple of hours after picking up a young black woman--a hitchhiker who matches him lie for gratuitous lie. The hitchhiker in ""The Friend"" is less lucky to meet the narrator, a rapist whose bad grammar and punctuation make it clear how evil he is. Another driver, a middle-aged man drifting east in his big Oldsmobile, picks up a gift half his age with whom he manages to forget, for a while, his troubled past (""That's No Reason""). Many of these interchangeable pieces concern young men and their ill-fated ""relationships"": a guy named Guy pines for an uninterested waitress at the bar he owns (""Here You Are""); a jilted young professor develops an attachment for the widow next door (""Mrs. Sims""); and the reluctant lover of an adulterous woman takes out his frustration on a noisy dog (""Beach""). A trio of absurdist tales recalls brother Donald: one about a young man who reads surreal love stories to women he hopes to seduce; another about a phony psychiatrist who kills his only patient; and the last about a talking cat, bored with human whining. The strongest story (""Zorro"") stands out for the depth of psychological insight displayed in its account of a dutiful son's attentions to his alcoholic mother. Flashes of whimsy break up a mostly lackluster debut collection, further burdened by a dreadful title.