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"Werewolves in Their Youth"

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Werewolves in Their Youth (Random House; $22.95), Michael Chabon's new story collection, reads as if he sat down and thought, What's the worst thing one could do? Betray a childhood friend, steal from an ex-wife's grandmother, sleep with the baby-sitter? He's got them all covered. But his weak-willed characters never go through with their emotional crimes, so the book is filled with almost-disasters. Only "That Was Me" comes to life. Its protagonists, a couple locked in an uneasy battle of wills, have an opaque complexity that passes for nature. " 'What's the story with Olivier?' " he asks her, of her proposed conquest. " 'I think I scared him off with my evident madness.' 'Do you want to dance?' 'No,' she said. 'Let's go home.' 'Meaning what?' said Jake." The last question -- plaintive? manipulative? -- is the real horror.


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