Although this is Pulitzer Prize-winner Hersey's 24th Knopf book, it is his first collection of short fiction. Deft and sure-footed as ever, Hersey demonstrates in these 11 stories that he is, in any format, a master storyteller. Two of the pieces were published in the Atlantic in 1957 and 1950; the rest have appeared in the last three years in such magazines as Paris Review and Grand Street . Among the astonishing voices that narrate these tales is that of Venus, in the title story, an aged socialite who yearns for lost worlds of careless richness. There is Miss Peg, heroine of ``Peggety's Parcel of Shortcomings,'' a pastry cook whose romantic night on the town with a sailor is encumbered by a large raw salmon done up in newspaper. In ``Affinities'' we meet Samson Honniger, who is charged with stealing a dog. The dog merely followed him, he explains to his long-suffering bail bondsman, ``Timothy understood me, and I understood Timothy. The moment we met. . . . His eyes reminded me of my grandmother's.'' Hersey's narrative skill is abundantly evident throughout this assortment of tales. If there is an occasional rather old-fashioned feeling to some of the stories, it is due to Hersey's solid, precise prose, the kind that's meant to last. (Apr.)
Hersey's first volume of short fiction exhibits the same mastery he brings to his novels (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Bell for Adano ) and journalism. Most of these 11 stories deal with unhappy parent/child relationships or pit a young, confident character against a tired, disillusioned parent figure. In ``God's Typhoon,'' for instance, a timid boy emulates his late, tyrannical father. The narrator of ``The Captain'' quits a lobster boat after a new crew member questions (and destroys) the authority of the skipper. But best of all is the long title story, a tour de force that takes an aging, elegant couple on one last fling: ``Let's go across the border. Let's go abroad,'' the wife urges, but she finds herself embarking on a far more definitive journey. Highly recommended for short story collections.-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.