If there is anything other than the nationality of their authors that unites these stories, it is a disinterest in postmodern formal athleticism. Editor Wolff (This Boy's Life, 1988, etc.) has chosen stories, not fictions. You will find no John Barth here, no Robert Coover, no Donald Barthelme. What you get is Dorothy Allison, Richard Bausch, and Ann Beattie; Raymond Carver, Mary Gaitskill, and Ralph Lombreglia. Some voices -- Thom Jones, Denis Johnson, John Edgar Wideman -- are more idiosyncratic than others, but this collection is solid meat-and-potatoes fare. It's tempting to read some cultural significance into Wolff's selections and omissions: Maybe he's trying to distinguish American virtues of simplicity and directness from such alien vices as complexity and obliquity. Then again, maybe he just likes the stories.