The genesis of plaNYourCity was when some planners started to ask around for books of fiction that portrayed a distinct sense of place, particularly a city. Some of the first titles to surface were Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of Vanities which describes the racial tensions and environment of 1980’s New York, and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City which describes Chicago in the late 1800’s during the World’s Fair.
Cities are so complex with so many human experiences going on that can never be captured by any one profession be it planners or architects or urban designers or economists. Fiction writers add the human experience and drama to our understanding of cities and city life. Without fiction writers our civilization would be dull like food without salt. They add color, meaning and depth to our perceptions of ourselves and our surroundings.
Alice Munro, a Canadian writer of short stories, is an incredible observer of people and places. She is master of capturing the conflicting nature of human existence on a daily basis, but she is also very good at drawing a succinct picture of a street scape, a farm or a town. She is no Tolstoy when it comes to the details of a setting, but rather she tells you just what you need to know. Her acute observations and brevity of description has its own potency and magic. Her eye for necessary detail (often at odds with what the reader might expect) is astounding, and that is why she is so loved and admired.
Thanks Alice Munro.