Schoom

Jonathan Wilson, Author Penguin Books $10.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-14-023827-3

Collected to coincide with the August publication of Wilson's debut novel, The Hiding Room, these 12 stories lack the expertise and emotional maturity one expects of a staff writer at the New Yorker. At best, Wilson's narratives are heavy-handed romantic comedies populated by childish ``wise guys'' who refuse to face their emotions. Or their responses are so smug and shallow, one quickly loses patience with their juvenile behavior. Such little-boy logic might explain why women are depicted throughout as whimsical whores at the service of Wilson's lonely, immature men. Unlike T. Coraghessan Boyle and Ron Carlson, whose descriptive styles allow two-bit shysters and far-out loners to exist in hilarious worlds that're often all too familiar, Wilson's prose is rhetorical and self-referential to the point of losing the reader in a maze of abstract one-liners. Internal commentary takes the place of external description. If only the lives of Wilson's men were as urgent as they believe them to be, their attempts at humor might seem relevant. (Aug.)