Unlike Lessing (above), V. S. Pritchett values his stories above all else, and so do his charmed, disarmed, and diverted readers. All the more reason why this culling of 14 pieces from Pritchett's four story collections since 1961 seems a bit stingy. Certainly most of the lucky survivors represent Pritchett at his civilized, piquant best--smiling down on idiosyncrasies, revving up for old age with two wildly alternative views of it, sighing along with those who cling to hopeless romantic notions. The few duds of the past (mostly farces) are not missed. And there's wisdom in the inclusion of such atypically long stories as ""Blind Love"" and ""When My Girl Comes Home""--resonant contradictions of the chestnutty characterization of a Pritchett story as a read-smile-and-forget. But perhaps it wasn't a shrewd use of space to reprint here the three-part comic novella Key to My Heart (it definitely isn't cricket to present it as three unconnected stories without the slightest editorial hint of a unit). And what--no room for ""The Nest Builder""? Each Pritchett devotee will surely have his or her own version of such a complaint--but never mind. A fair enough display of a master miniaturist--in not quite all his wry, wise, compassionate glory.