STRANGE, GORGEOUS FABLES - the reader isn't sure if she has dreamed them or read them. A homesick octopus with a collection of spoons drinking tea in his tidy apartment? A duck falls in love with a rock? UFOs, sharks. Some of these small stories are like opening a door, entering a room. Some are nightmares - a long tunnel; death approaching on a road. Some feel like being on a rickety ride at an amusement park; objects float by - a lacquered box, a spoon. Some are full of fear and anger - a woman who buys a book with no words, the angrier she gets, the higher the book climbs on the bestseller lists. All have that Italo Calvino sparkle; all unpack reality, peel it back, step politely over it. "And then, finally, on his dying day, the man gets up and goes into the yard. He stands gazing up into the sky. Overhead, the stars twinkle down. It was worth it! The man cries. It was worth it just to know you! It was worth it just to even know your name! And in response, the sky explodes. The gates of heaven open in flame." It's a flea market, this collection, an endless avenue of story stalls. How did he create this romper room, this free zone, and then give himself permission to play on paper in ways that are not only accessible to the rest of us, but give us permission, too? I see only two clues in his bio and they are not substantial: He lives in L.A. On top of a hill.