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Oy Vey!

Short summer reads

With BlackBerries ringing alongside land lines, we’re spread thin. Translation? Less time. For a quick literary fix on the go, Variety Weekend features four new and essential short story collections.

“Trouble: Stories”

“Young Brandon has some problems…” begins the first story in “Trouble” — and that sets the tone for a collection of moving, off-kilter tales about boys becoming men and men who are still boys. Individually, each piece is smart and fully realized (the book’s title story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize); overall, they’re painful and hilarious. By Patrick Somerville. (Vintage Books)

“How This Night is Different: Stories”

L.A. native Elisa Albert, who’s borne repeated comparisons to a budding Philip Roth, turns Passover on its head in “How This Night is Different.” A debut collection, it’s a dark, witty and incisive take on modern-day disaffected Jewish youth. (Free Press)

“Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories”

Southwest Review fiction editor Ben Fountain won the 2005 O. Henry Prize and a 2004 Pushcart Prize for individual stories. “Brief Encounters” is his debut collection and it offers kaleidoscopic window into the life of the clumsy American living abroad. (Ecco)

“Babylon: And Other Stories”

A diverse collection that ranges from first-person confessional to third-person narrative interspersed with a fictional medical transcript; an emotional cohesiveness bridges them all. Engaging and intelligent, ironic and heartfelt, all at once. By Alix Ohlin. (Knopf)