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Tao Lin. Melville House Publishing, $14.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-1-933633-26-8

This set of nine pseudo-autobiographical, woe-is-our-generation absurdist tales updates Oblamov for worried 21st century slackerdom. Lin's characters will be familiar to MySpace denizens, whether they're struggling through college in a busy city, stifling in an exhausted relationship just for the body heat, or missing their parents (but not knowing how to tell them without sounding as if asking for money). Settings are cheekily vague: ""Love Is A Thing On Sale For More Money Than Exists,"" about a much-needed break-up, takes place during ""the month that people began to suspect terrorists had infiltrated Middle America,"" while ""Nine, Ten,"" a love story about two nine-year-olds and their divorced parents, occurs during the year that people ""got a bit careless."" As precocious children, depressing descriptions of urban pollution and beached marine life pile up, it becomes clear that Lin's subject is the inadequacy of conventional tools and wisdom for coping with the era of the War on Terror: ""Was the future now? Or was it coming up still?... all that was promised... was not here, and would probably never be here. They had lied. Someone had lied."" Such observations make the flat, matter-of-fact prose and aimless pop culture references come into vivid focus.