Books: Underdogs

THE PEOPLE AND UNCOLLECTED STORIES by Bernard Malamud

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

269 pages; $18.95

In a 1968 story called An Exorcism, Bernard Malamud wrote of Eli Fogel, a middle-aged author suddenly saddled with a young acolyte named Gary Simson. Fogel enjoys the veneration, up to a point; his work has garnered moderate recognition and less money. But Simson's relentless requests for advice, tips on writing and letters of recommendation distract Fogel from his own efforts, in this case his slow progress in finishing another novel: "Perfection comes hard to an imperfectionist. He had visions of himself dying before the book...

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