BOOKS: COMIC BEWILDERMENTS

NINE ENGAGING STORIES TACKLE MODERN ABSURDITIES

Knowing when to say nothing is important," confides the female narrator of the nine short stories that make up Julie Hecht's Do the Windows Open? (Random House; 212 pages; $21). "And," she adds, "I haven't learned that."

This juxtaposition--what should be done set against the difficulty of actually doing it--underscores the comic principle that animates Hecht's first collection of fiction. Her narrator ought to be happy, or at least fulfilled. She and her architect husband have an apartment in Manhattan, a house in East Hampton and a summer rental on Nantucket. She can afford a small army of expensive people--psychiatrists, opticians,...

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