Four stories set against the sharply delineated background of Israel in the 1940's and 50's, with a single narrator who matures into selfhood in an often dangerous world. As in the harshly moving The Way to the Cats (1994), Israeli author Kenaz freezes moments in the kaleidoscopic changes of focus within the curious universe of the self. ``The Three-Legged Chicken'' chronicles a liberating moment in the life of a young boy who sees the landscape become ``strange'' as a voice--not his own but one from within--pronounces ``I,I,I,I.'' On the day of his grandfather's death he will witness ugliness and cruelty as men with a lust for spectacle crowd in to see a deformed chicken. In ``Henrik's Secret,'' a girl's beauty and her young brother's secret anguish flare up into loneliness and incomprehensible feelings of guilt (somehow linked to disgust) in the boy. The title tale depicts a moment of exquisite music that becomes the lodestone of this young man's erratic career in violin lessons, during which he closely scrutinizes peers and adults--including his beloved parents, who have their own secrets that would ``follow them like shadows. Beyond my control.'' In ``Between Night and Dawn,'' a group of virtually stereotypical Israeli teens--the leader; the plain, good-guy girl; the beauty; the cynic--are shaken in their roles by the impact of an untamed, sexually disturbing outsider. Throughout the text, Kenaz snaps with precision the instant-by- instant confrontations of life and its moments of releasing joy or love or beauty. At one point the boy turns on a radio: ``In the babble of whistles and growls...music and song bursting out and abruptly stifled, I discovered a cruel and abusive world.'' Searching tales in a spare prose, close to the bone.