Mr. Faulkner takes us down two paths, apparently unconnected. He calls one story The Wild Palms, the other Old Man. They alternate and never touch, until the very end. Then, the pieces fall into place, and The Wild Palms turns out to be the story behind the story of Old Man. The one story is a story of illicit love -- the other story is the punishment. In both, the central character is given a chance to escape and refuses, preferring to serve his sentence of grief. Faulkner has come to grips with his style, and has found a terse, vivid medium, shorn of much of the brutality of his earlier work but still vigorous, dramatic, though not as colorful as his more impassioned and less controlled form. The setting is again the Deep South.