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Shit happens to Nick Hornby’s characters. More often than not, it’s manageable shit—shit that makes a reader think, Maybe, if I were in there to deal with things, there wouldn’t be so much shit to write about. Still, with a liberal sprinkling of humor and the careful attention to detail that can come only from an intimate familiarity with the situations of his characters, Hornby always holds his audience’s attention. And his latest proves that Hornby can write more than simple satire: A Long Way Down explores his trademark what-went-wrong themes, but it feels darker than the rest of his work. With any luck, this darkness will be enough to keep the Hollywood rom-com monsters from turning more of his work into, well, shit. Hornby reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 525-4227. (Mike Kanin)