By Gilbert Cruz
Updated August 03, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

As the creator of the junk-voyeur journal Found, which collects notes, pictures, and other pieces of human detritus, Davy Rothbart has spent years glimpsing briefly into the lives of hundreds of anonymous Americans. By this fact alone, his slim first collection of short stories should be a quirky, perceptive volume. It’s not. Populated by mostly unlik-able criminals, drifters, and con artists, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas has two decent stories (the title tale and ”A Black Dog”), several that are pointless (”How I Got Here”), and one that’s just plain mean (”First Snow”). Mistaking sentimentality and earnestness for genuine emotion, Rothbart should probably stick to compiling other people’s invariably more interesting tales.