After a twenty-year hiatus, Stanford University professor and author Elizabeth Tallent has unleashed a long-awaited collection of new short stories. Mendocino Fire spans a diverse array of both characters and settings with subjects hailing from varied socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders. There’s the young man from a fishing community struggling with an ailing father, an academic who is invited by her husband’s new partner to the house she once shared with him, and the millworker who gives safe harbor to his son’s pregnant girlfriend only to be unsettled by an ambiguous gesture. In each of the stories, Tallent employs her penetrating, insightful prose, her penchant for long, winding sentences, and her vivid imagery to create complex tableaus that probe the nuances of relationships both whole and broken. Tallent’s work first began appearing in the 1980s in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Esquire. She’ll be reading from Mendocino Fire, her fourth volume of short stories, at Mrs. Dalloway’s (2904 College Ave., Berkeley) on Thursday, October 29.