AT FIRST GLANCE, the new short-story collections by Joyce Carol Oates, Susan Hill and John Murray don’t seem to have much in common. Two of them are bv old hands (the incredibly prolific Oates, whose books in many genres number well over eighty by now, and the more humanly prolific Hill), while one is by a newcomer (Murray – who is a doctor, born in Australia and now resident in the United States). Geographically, too, they differ. Oates explores the psychopathology of American lives gone askew. while most of the characters in Hill’s stories inhabit a vaguely old-fashioned England, and Murray’s protagonists, scientists and doctors mostly, ready straddle the globe.