Perhaps because part of its sales will go to the anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, this collection of new short fiction is a very politically correct patchwork: The authors are black, white and Hispanic, and the characters include abused women, neglected children and a family fleeing a Latino dictatorship. Still, it's an engaging assortment that touches upon virtually all of life's tidemarks.
Jill McCorkle's "Life Prerecorded" is a funny, wise memoir in which the author looks back on the time she was pregnant and trying to quit smoking. In "The Glorious Mysteries," by Alice Fulton, two maiden aunts squabble over what dress to bury their sister in, while Frederick Barthelme's "Dallas" follows two couples making a dispiriting pilgrimage to the site of the Kennedy assassination. Most memorable is Michael Chabon's "Spike," about a fatherless boy with no ride to baseball practice who is befriended by an equally sad-hearted neighbor. In just 11 pages, it's a repository of hope and humiliation, of opportunities found and lost. (Harvest/Harcourt Brace, $12)