Awkward metaphors and a lack of narrative drive plague the 34 very short entries in this sometimes exasperating collection from poet and critic Yau (Forbidden Entries). The volume is divided into six sections, the first of which occupies roughly half the book and contains its weakest material. More conventional than the pieces that follow, these opening stories (many narrated by unconvincingly sexualized women) read more like a sketch or the openings of a story than the finished products of an author's craft. Their lack of compelling narrative isn't helped by Yau's clunky prose, much of it along the lines of "I was a one piece marching band that made men salute, their batons stiffen" (from one of the book's worst offenders, "Butcher, Baker, or Candlestick Maker"). Readers who make it through the first half, however, will find their patience at least partially rewarded by what follows. Filling the second section with spare, sure, lyrical vignettes reminiscent of Lydia Davis's work, Yau plays to his strengths and the quality of his prose improves drastically. Here his talent and insight are evident, worth waiting for, though readers who bog down in the book's first half may be forgiven for thinking otherwise. (Sept.) FYI: Black Sparrow has printed My Symptoms in a limited edition of 200 hardcover copies, half of them signed by the author.