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The New York Times
Books in Brief: Fiction
By ANDY SOLOMON
Published: October 26, 1997
WITHIN THE LIGHTED CITY
By Lisa Lenzo.
University of Iowa Press, $19.95.
Ann Beattie has always displayed keen vision in analyzing contemporary literature; this time she's shown it by selecting Lisa Lenzo's story collection for the University of Iowa Press's 1997 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Lenzo's nine stories, set in and around Detroit, remove just enough of the solid foundation from beneath her characters' footing. Some, like the teen-agers in ''Stealing Trees,'' imperil themselves without very much outside help, slinking into a ghetto to filch trees they plan to replant elsewhere. More quirky, even divinely foolish, is an angel named Thomas who appears in another story, botching his between-lives assignments and suffering the consequences. The remaining stories form a novel-in-pieces about the Zito family, all but one told by a daughter, Annie. Of these, ''Burning,'' ''Waiting'' and the title story stand alone brilliantly, capturing family love, personal tragedy and swelling disillusionment as Annie steps into adulthood during the 1967 riots in Detroit, learning that even her strong father can't make the world safe. Beattie has said she admires stories that yield the ''surprise'' of a recognizable world freshly rendered. In Lenzo's collection, that surprise is everywhere. –Andy Solomon