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How do you fuck a Barbie doll? I mean, how do you physically do it? Size differential aside, the damn thing’s got no orifices. Just look. A.M. Homes had us pondering this puzzling piece of plot development in 1999’s The Safety of Objects. And now she’s at it again, burning down suburbia through her latest collection of short stories. Talk about someone with a sick streak—Things You Should Know follows a host of disturbed characters: a wanderlusting Chinese woman who’s tracked with a homing device implanted in her neck, a guilt-ridden man who barbecues himself in the back yard, a pubescent homosexual who literally pisses on girls, and Ronald Reagan, among others. At their core, these stories are all about, as Homes puts it, “wanting and need—a peculiar, desperate kind of need, needing to get what you never got, wanting it still, wanting it all the more…” The characters’ bizarre behavior is usually a means to explore this need: In one tale, a beach voyeur, longing to give birth, seeks sperm—specifically, the kind she finds swimming around in recently discarded condoms. Back in her car, she shoots it up with a syringe. Then, the safe-sex buff returns to the beach to leave fresh packs of rubbers lying around for the lifeguards in the hopes of increasing productivity. What does that say about the human condition? Homes comes to town at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Chris Shott)