cover image City in Love: The New York Metamorphoses

City in Love: The New York Metamorphoses

Alex Shakar. F2c, $11.95 (164pp) ISBN 978-1-57366-022-8

Shakar is really good when he's on. Which is, admittedly, a cagey way of saying that he's not when he's not. This debut collection gathers seven stories that weave together the geographical space of New York City and the fertile, imaginative minds of the young. In ""The Sky Inside,"" Shakar waxes poetic on a serial prankster who delivers timely messages to ""the big city"" via light emanating from landmark buildings (kind of like a psychotic Jenny Holzer without art school). In ""A Million Years from Now,"" his subject is an arte povera artist surrounded by prostitutes, who uses the city's refuse to produce his sculpture: his ideal woman. These first two stories are by far the best. When Shakar tries to give voices to his younger protagonists, it often sounds fake and forced, as in ""Waxman's Sun"" and ""Maximum Carnage,"" the latter of which is basically a teen-spirited narrative of a violent video game. The voice of youth without retrospect sounds shallow, and one wishes for a young Holden Caulfield to jump in and give the heroine of ""Maximum Carnage"" a good slap. Shakar is better in ""A Change of Heart,"" in which two mature and creative voices join the cacophony of surreal downtown streets, clubs, and bars. Although the flap copy claims that Shakar has based his book on Ovid's Metamorphoses (evidence of which, aside from the occasional mythicizing, is hard to see), it is more clearly about coming of age in the city. Et in urbi ego. (Nov.)