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Love and Obstacles, by Aleksandar Hemon

Perhaps, in keeping with the stricter labeling laws, Aleksandar Hemon‘s new collection of stories should list its primary ingredient first. Impediments, more than love, are the foundation of Love and Obstacles: Stories (Riverhead, May 2009). Foreignness, prepubescence, awkward bookishness… Even sex itself is a liability: the characters look ridiculous pursuing it, worse doing it, and we think less of them afterward. Men offer up their partners for it, threaten each other’s mothers and sisters with it, reminisce about it, and thwart each other’s pursuits of it. Aleksandar Hemon’s vivid prose serves as the overlit bar mirror, showing us every wax bead in his characters’ pores.