BOOKS: FLOUNDERING

A TOUCHING COLLECTION OF STORIES ABOUT LOVE IN THE CITY

At first perusal Thomas Beller's debut short-story collection, Seduction Theory (Norton; 205 pages; $21), appears as though it might be the chic literary equivalent of the TV comedy Friends. Beller, 30, is the co-founder of a talked-about Manhattan fiction journal, Open City, and the characters who people his 10 witty stories are plucked straight from a hyperexposed world of young, well-bred New Yorkers hopelessly flustered by attraction, ever fearful of love.

Beller's great accomplishment, however, is that he has managed to weave a series of touching and exceptionally memorable tales from this familiar milieu. All in all, Beller's characters are an...

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