Nine New York love stories: Can a city be a matchmaker?
My parents, who recently celebrated their 62nd anniversary, met on the Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, elevated subway platform in 1948. They were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and my father, a brash, brainy 20-year-old, managed to snag the seat next to my pretty mother for their long commute up to the Washington Heights campus of New York University. Well before they reached their destination, he’d arranged their first date.
In Heart of the City, Ariel Sabar, whose parents met in Washington Square Park on Labor Day, 1966, chronicles nine love stories that began with chance encounters at various New York City landmarks. He wonders, “Could a vibrant public space, in some subtle but essential way, play matchmaker?”
Sabar won a National Book Critics Circle award for autobiography for his first book, “My Father’s Paradise” (2008), about his father’s journey from Kurdish Iraq to Los Angeles. As he acknowledges, “Heart of the City” is a much lighter undertaking. He attempts to extract deeper meaning from his tales of serendipitous love by exploring the work of various environmental psychologists concerning the possible “nexus between passion and place, between architecture and attraction.” But his long introduction feels like the blood test required for a marriage license, more hurdle than pleasure.