Editor Abrahams' literary compass, once (only a few years ago) so sure, pointing unerringly at such true norths of excellence as Cynthia Ozick and Harold Brodkey, seems to have taken a terrible jolting. The first-prize winner in this year's award anthology is a story by Alice Walker, ""Kindred Spirits""--a piece so slack, attitudinizing, poorly constructed, and indifferently written that it barely merits first publication to say nothing of second. Reading like a first draft of something that would no doubt be better once given some heart, it stands, however, as the book's beacon. It's hard to figure out why. And, unfortunately, it casts a pall over all the rest. Much here is just as pallid as the Walker: Stuart Dybek's ""Pet Milk,"" Ward Just's "" The Costa Brava,"" stories by Greg Johnson, Joyce Kornblatt, Peter Cameron, a weak story by Elizabeth Spencer. Some are stronger but, like the Walker, seem shard-like: Alice Adams' ""Molly's Dog,"" Gordon Lish's ""Resurrection,"" Bobbie Ann Mason's ""Big Bertha Stories. ""The best stories, each one easily better than the Walker yet its runner-up, strive to hold position--John L'Heureaux's ""The Comedian,"" stories by Peter Meinke, Deborah Eisenberg, Irvin Faust and Stephanie Vaughn--but they too are robbed of a certain earned merit by the eccentric editing. Certainly one of the worst of the best--a book that seems to have willfully sabotaged its own strengths, which are in here if you hunt for them.