THE MAN WHO DREAMT OF LOBSTERS by Michael Collins (Random House: $19; 223 pp.) In these eight stories by a talented young writer, the metaphor for Irish life is claustrophobia. The land is hemmed in by dark clouds and a darker history. People crowd into broken-down cars, wrap themselves against the rain, huddle in stuffy, overheated dwellings and chafe, usually in vain, against an inherited strait-jacket of cruelty.
In the very first story, "True Love," Michael Collins gives us an unforgettable image: that of cold, hungry children waiting for hours in the flooded parking lot of a pub while their fathers celebrate a dog's victory in a hunting trial. Hennessey, the owner of the dog, is "a coward among the clamor of other males." He dares not alienate his cronies, either to protect his daughter from sexual advances or to treat the dog's injuries. Before the night is over, the dog dies; his weeping, cursing children have been shoved a little further down Hennessey's own loveless path.