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The debut short-story collection from Thomas Beller (Norton; 205 pages; $21) is peopled with characters plucked straight from a hyperexposed world of young New Yorkers hopelessly flustered by attraction, ever fearful of love. These are well trodden streets, and the book at first glance appears as though it might be nothing more than the chic literary equivalent of the TV comedy "Friends." But Beller's great accomplishment, says TIME's Ginia Bellafante, "is that he has managed to weave a series of touching and exceptionally memorable tales from this familiar milieu."