Habitats: Private Lives in the Big City

Constance Rosenblum. New York Univ., $19.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8147-7154-9
In this collection of snappy columns originally printed in the Real Estate section of the New York Times, Rosenblum (Boulevard of Dreams) gives an intimate look at 40 unique New York City spaces and the people who inhabit them. From the decrepit Bushwick mansion turned music collective, to the cozy, customized studio in Lennox Hill, to the family-heirloom rowhouse in Long Island City, to the classic eight on the Upper East Side, to affordable housing in the Bronx, to the custodial apartment in a Staten Island museum, Rosenblum’s elegantly compressed portraits offer charming “biography through real estate”; together, they represent a tiny sample of the infinite possibilities of life in New York City. The stories describe the metropolis as a palimpsest, one that maintains traces of its past despite inevitable change. The tales of luck or hard work that resulted in the securing of perfect tiny shoebox apartments, rehabbed brownstones, and converted industrial spaces provide a frisson of envy that keeps us reading; it’s the same urge that has us gaze up at lighted windows from the sidewalk below and wonder if someone else’s house, and thus, their very existence, is better than our own. Rosenblum’s profiles are a celebration of New York, and of what E.B. White called “the gift of privacy, the jewel of loneliness”—the difficulties and pleasures of finding a place and making it a home. Agent: Andrew Blauner, Blauner Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 03/25/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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