From the Brooklyn-based Shakar, a debut collection of stories linked by their location, a fanciful New York City, and by allusions to Ovid's Metamorphoses. In ""Maximum Carnage,"" a sad little girl, Roxanne, becomes a superhero who saves the day at her brutal playground. The author is wonderfully on-key with Roxanne's voice (and he knows all about comic books). In ""The Sky Inside,"" a jumbled, jangly novella, a tough police detective tellingly comments on the decadence of the city, a sculptor leaves behind gigantic letters of the alphabet in some cryptic message, and a down-to-earth astrologer, Madame Merski, calculates when best to give birth. She attracts both the right and wrong men a few hours apart and conceives twins, one of whom is a superhero, having been conceived during a particular alignment of the stars. This is Madame's gift to the city--a hero to save an increasingly endangered place no mere mortal could understand. In the sentimental ""A Million Years From Now,"" a deranged old scavenger constructs his ideal woman out of wire and a fish skeleton; he's still talking to her as emergency workers bear him away. ""City in Love"" concerns a self-absorbed, self-conscious writer living with a woman who has a wonderful idea for a children's story--better, in fact, than the story actually before the reader, which has as its chief virtue a celebration of the sights and sounds of New York. In truth, all of these pieces are infatuated with New York. Once you get past Shakar's Sukenick-like twists and tricks, he's exuberantly in love with the vastness, diversity, and mythic qualities of Manhattan, and his deep affection will undoubtedly inspire him to fashion better books than this one. The apprentice work of a promising talent.