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City in Love: The New York Metamorphoses Paperback – September 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060508833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060508838
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,930,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This first work of fiction by Alex Shakar won the 1996 FC2 National Fiction Competition. Set in a very different New York City in 1 B.C., the novel is a stunning (re)vision of myth, using Ovid's Metamorphoses as the foundation. The city takes the place of nature for Shakar's modern characters as they pursue their quests and meet their fates on the streets rather than the high seas. Shakar has created such memorable characters as Roxanne, schoolgirl superhero from Queens, and the Junk Man, who builds his lady love from the trash he finds while dumpster diving. Welcome to a brilliant new millennium. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alex Shakar's latest novel, Luminarium, won the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction. It was also named an Editor's Choice by The New York Times, a Notable Book by The Washington Post, and a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, The Austin Chronicle, and The Kansas City Star. His first novel, The Savage Girl, was named a New York Times Notable Book and has been translated into six foreign languages. His story collection, City In Love, won the FC2 National Fiction Competition. A native of Brooklyn, NY, he now lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William Tortorelli on April 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I had to comment, because the reviews currently listed here rather missed the point of this collection. I don't just mean the Ovid allusions (which are more often irrelevant than crucial to understanding the stories). Shakar takes each myth and explores the psychological and emotional elements, emerging with something ancient and something new. "Maximum Carnage" is perhaps the subtlest of them. It begins with the tale of Caenis/Caeneus from Ovid's Metamorphoses, and focuses on the rape element. Roxanne's own violation is presented subtly and in chillingly sinister allusion. Her fixation on penetration and bloodshed is depicted in what seems a nauseatingly realistic way. In the end he seems to attribute trauma not to the media violence children encounter (video games, etc), but to the violence children experience at the hands of adults and each other. On the other hand, it is interesting that Roxanne chooses to express her trauma in the language of video games and comic books...
The last story uses an experimental narrative technique that works well with the subject matter. It offers an oddly hopeful and optimistic outlook, but only to those who will listen to the voice in their ears. The "end" is a bit confusing, and made me wonder whether the second-to-last number on the last page might be a misprint.
Yes, read these stories. They are less about a city than about civilization (which hasn't changed much since Ovid's day).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on August 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book with the intention of rereading Ovid's Metamorphoses first (the Ted Hughes translation). Unfortunately, my timing was off, and I didn't get to this book right away. I cannot comment on the veracity of all the myths, as I deliberately chose not to go back to read them. These stories are interpretations, not transliterations, so I read them as such.

As this is the writer's first book, not to mention that he comes from an esteemed writing program, I see this as a prosaic experiment. I agree that the myths seem at times, incidental. If we judge the stories on his faithfulness to Ovid, I suppose "Waxman's Sun" "A Million Years From Now" and "On Morpheus, Relating to Orpheus" seem to work more consciously with the storyline. They also stuck with me as a reader more than the others; however, that doesn't mean his experiment is a failure.

I found his prose style fascinating. For each story, he chose a different voice, a different style of language and he even played with the conventions of narrative--"City of Love" is a perfect example of the latter. By engaging in such inventive prose methods, he summed up New York City perfectly, as it is a polyglot of culture and socio-economic class. Like Rome, people go there to be part of the power source: I have so many friends who went to NY to become actors, writers, dancers--it ran the gammet of the arts. New York is a place for the wealthy to have a second or third home--almost always a condo as it is nearly impossible to find a house in the city. With so many people stacked on top of each other, the city is both the center of life, and the heart of darkness. Ancient Rome was a filthy place. Right now New York is overrun by bedbugs and rats.
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Format: Paperback
Ancient Greek and Roman mythology meets contemporary New York City in Alex Shakar's spellbinding debut short story collection, "City in Love: The New York Metamorphoses", replete in exquisitely wrought prose. Shakar is a fearless, ambitious writer willing to bend genres and to transform them, coupling elements of fantasy and realistic contemporary fiction into a superb example of literary art. These seven stories demonstrate Shakar's gifts as both a fine storyteller and elegant literary stylist. Among the most visually compelling stories is "Waxman's Sun", which Shakar derives directly from Ovid's recounting of the myth of Phaeton. "Maximum Carnage" is a street-smart saga recounting how a young Queens schoolgirl, Roxanne, becomes the local superhero at a bloody playground. "On Morpheus, Relating Orpheus...." is an engrossing tale on a struggling up-and-coming actor's first important theatrical role, as remembered decades later by his musician son. Shakar plumbs relentlessly through the urban soul of New York City in these tales, acting as though the city is Mount Olympus, the home of the Greco-Roman gods, alerting readers to the possibility that the city is as compelling a source of myth as anything written by Ovid or Homer. Without question, "City in Love" is a notable fictional debut by one of the most intriguing American fiction writers of our generation.
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