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Monday, May 09, 2011

"Heart of the City"

Heart of the CityI really enjoyed this book.  The author, Ariel Sabar, struck by the role of Washington Square Park in his own parents' unlikely pairing, sought out stories across the decades of couples who met at NY landmarks like Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum.  The result is quirky and charming. I thought the premise was adorable, the stories were interesting, and the final product was super readable.

I was quite surprised that my fellow book club members were so much less enthusiastic than I was.  They grumbled that the book was contrived and smarmy, and that these couples could have met anywhere.

But I thought the stories Sabar chose did an admirable job of supporting his treatise, laid out in a lengthy introduction, about the role of places in heightening our emotions, and the particular qualities of urban spaces in creating a place where people can let their guard down and be open to connecting with someone special.  Certainly several of these couples would never have met if they hadn't both been in Times Square at that moment, or taking the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty on that particular day, or riding that train out of Grand Central Station together.

In fact, a number of the couples struck me as quite unlikely - the cop from NY who eventually marries the tourist from Minnesota, the prickly musician who eventually marries the rather aimless young man she meets outside the Met, the French visitor who eventually marries the dancer he meets in Washington Square park, the German tourist who eventually marries the grounded single mom from Virginia, and especially the homeless girl from NJ who eventually marries the sailor she meets in Central park.  I assume that Sabar chose these stories from many others, because they best represent the serendipity of their unlikely meetings.

I'm really glad I read it, but I'm regretting getting the Kindle version (done to save a few dollars), because it's exactly the sort of book that you like to flip through and find favorite passages, and that is much harder to do with an ebook!


One of the book club members found a youtube video of the author speaking at The Strand bookstore in New York earlier this spring.  It's about an hour long, and well worth watching, though he doesn't cover much that isn't in the book.



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