Heart of the City: Nine Tales of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York
I believe in magic. I really do.
I am fresh off the boat but I have already learned that there is some divine sleight of hand that makes any form of human connection possible in New York City’s bustling boroughs.
Ariel Sabar believes that sleights such as: a missed train connection; a turn one block too early; and a misplaced address brought his collection of strangers together at a prominent New York landmark and then kept them together, married, presumably, happily ever after.
The couples selected by Sabar in the nine stories that comprise Heart of the City are a hodgepodge: in "Central Park" he narrates the love story of a teen runaway and a gallant sailor, in "The Subway" it is a Filipino bank teller and an American classical music reviewer and in "Liberty Enlightening the World" a German factory worker collides happily with a bubbly Long Island divorcee and her family.
Sabar venerates romance and marriage. He is clearly enamored with his cast of lovers, and this is charming and a testament to the many hours he spent interviewing them—in one case more than sixty years after their love first blossomed in New York. But Sabar’s micro-detail of that first lingering gaze, the agonized "she loves me she loves me not" internal chorus, the pouting lips that invite an inaugural kiss, the first amorous letter signed "love and kisses" is closer to banal than magical.
The love stories are a bad fit for a collection of short stories and I might have found them more endearing had I stumbled across them piecemeal in the "Weddings & Celebrations" section of the New York Times. Having said this I must add that none of Sabar’s couples are black or Hispanic, and none are same-sex—these groups do get to tell their fairy tale stories too in the "Weddings & Celebrations" section of the New York Times.