May 28, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

In the eight stories in Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, British stylist Will Self again proves a hallucinogenic O. Henry, subjecting plot concepts to wearyingly obvious ironic twists: In ”The Rock of Crack as Big as the Ritz,” a dealer and his addict brother discover a cocaine mother lode beneath their London house; ”A Story for Europe” portrays an English baby born fluent in ”business German”; while in the more realistic title story, a predictably fitting fate awaits a smug, speed-fueled psychiatrist who cruelly analyzes a hitchhiker while driving like a maniac from Scotland to London. As ever, Self’s prose has astonishing texture, but his talent often seems to be slumming amid the thin material. B-

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