CRASH DIET by Jill McCorkle (Fawcett:...

CRASH DIET by Jill McCorkle (Fawcett: $4.99; 211 pp.). The most vivid short stories in this collection are the droll, first-person accounts of Southern women searching for identity in contemporary America. The narrator of "Crash Diet" discovers that living well is the best revenge--especially when it's done on an ex-husband's credit cards. In "Waiting for Hard Times to End," a lonely teen-aged girl turns a series of postcards into a fantasy world that eclipses the drab realities of small town life. Lucinda, the no-nonsense heroine of "Man Watcher" seems to speak for all of McCorkle's characters. Casting a weary eye at her widowed step-mother's efforts to snag a new husband, she comments, "To think that a man can fill up whatever space you have is just stupid if you ask me. He can't do it any better than a box of Twinkies or a gallon of liquor, and to ask it of him is unfair."

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