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May 12, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

SEDUCTION THEORY by Thomas Beller (Warner: $11.99; 205 pp.). A mischievous humor enlivens these tales of mismatched lovers and disillusioned children in Manhattan. In "The Dark Piano," a mother calls her disgruntled son using "two inflections, like opposite halves of a broken cookie." "Life Under Optimum Conditions" and "Nondestructive Testing" depict young professional men and women whose attempts to be sexy inadvertently alienate their partners; the hero of "Tearing at Grapes" catalogs the catastrophes in his life, from catching his girlfriend with another man on his birthday to breaking his nose for the third time in less than a year.

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