A first, important, collection of Maxwell's immaculately tempered and cannily styled short stories in which the moments of sudden understanding can trip one up like an abrupt undertow. In the title story, against a background of Manhattan's luxury apartments by the East River (""The sun rose somewhere in the middle of Queens""), the polar verities--loving and not loving, living and dying--tilt on an axis of caprice. A quietly decent family of four moves through days of alarm clocks, illnesses, dog walks, a small child's nightmares, a hand wave at the window, and that distant cry for help in the streets. ""It's a kind of myth you're living in. . . wide awake. . ."" along the river. Throughout, Maxwell deals with acute engagements: a mother's aching loss of her son along with his need of her; the clutching friendships of young people. There are two pieces about Americans in France: a middle-aged man mourns the destruction of the beauty and grace that blessed his youthful honeymoon days; and, in a savagely funny tale, two tourists race to a precise reenactment of their friends' top status restaurant meal. In the concluding story, a childless couple assemble the perfect apartment with cat and warmly responsive artifacts--but the unhappy wife's pregnancy signals the collapse of their ""arrangements"" of things and people, and the beginnings of life. A landmark selection from the work of three decades.