It's been ""a vintage year"" for the short story according to Abrahams -- so much so that for the first time in the 55-year history of the O. Henry series two stories have been jointly awarded First Prize. Harold Brodkey's ""A Story in an Almost Classical Mode"" -- whose protagonists are the shrill hysterical voice of Brodkey's dying mother and his own tentative thirteen-year-old mind -- caused a minor literary tremor when it was published in the New Yorker September, 1973. But in another, Cynthia Ozick's ""Usurpation (Other People's Stories)"" sets off the Brodkey family tragedy with the wild mischievous joy that she and her writers-in-arms take in stealing material and usurping their masters -- a complex nest of invention that's hard to beat. Unless you skip to E.L. Doctorow's ""Ragtime"" -- a politicized evocation of the turn of the rotten century featuring characters like Jacob Riis, Theodore Dreiser, Houdini, ""the 400"" and Sigmund Freud. There are also stories from John Updike, Kay Carver, William Kotzwinkle, Alice Adams, William Maxwell, Tom Disch.