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Olaf Olafsson's Valentines (Knopf, 2007) is a collection of twelve short stories, one for each month of the year, in which men screw up their relationships big time but with a breathtaking minimum of fuss. The stories aren't linked in any narrative way, but as variations on a theme they develop force. "April" is one of the few perfect short stories that I've ever read: the inexorability that glimmers in the opening paragraphs takes over with the force of a gale, sweeping the protagonist into a failure that can never be made right. I read it haltingly, as if putting my hands over my eyes during a particularly painful movie.

For maximum effect, read one story a day for twelve days.


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