Books: Sympathetic Surfaces

AN AFTERNOON (205 pp)—Elizabeth Parsons—Viking ($2.50).

Most of the 17 short stories in this collection have already been printed in the New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar. They are the product of an able craftsman, content to plow a narrow field, and not very deeply.

Like most New Yorker short story writers, Author Parsons knows how to reproduce scenes from middle-class American life with photographic neatness, and a restraint that verges on bloodlessness. Author Parsons' characters are often worn to the bone by despair and nostalgia, but they are rarely impolite; they give vent to long sighs, but never to bad language.

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