Walter Abish's stories read like the messages of a man who is always paraphrasing whatever it is he thinks he wants to say. His narrators are Candide-ish nails abroad in an absurdist world. They wander into deserts or beds or faltering relationships and out again, nonplussed and unruffled, utterly blase. When his heroines (whether Ludmilla, Otilla, Gloria or Victoria) flash their identical high sign -- crossing their legs -- you can feel the little chaps dissemble. Likewise when their best friends usurp whichever Ludmilla or Otilla it is that happens to be at hand. . . . Abish's figments are take-offs on fiction (Marcel pursues Albertine in New Mexico; Jack and Norman reminisce about double-dating 'at Harvard) instead of reality -- the tried-and-true avant-garde ploy -- but they have a pleasant mien that's uncommon to hyper-language-consciousness. Even if things go awry and the center of gravity slides, his expeditions into meaning are in no greater danger than whimsy. The worst that might happen here is to be abandoned in the Sahara without a dictionary. Abish pulls off his little capers so fluently that you'll want to go along, wagging these tales behind you.