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Column by Cath Murphy
“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.”
Writers don’t have to live in cities. Steinbeck found life swarming in the waterfronts of Monterey; Faulkner in the dusty streets of Oxford, Mississippi; Shirley Jackson in the small town conspiracies of North Bennington, Vermont. But like Baudelaire said, there’s nothing to beat an hour on the pavement of a great city to supply a writer with material.
Cities take on personalities, develop identities. We compare them, the way we do people; befriend them; become heated about them in discussions; are surprised by their real life appearance when we visit them for the first time, as though we are taking tea with an acquaintance we have discussed but never met.
The city as character walks the pages of many novels. These three writers demonstrate how wonderfully multifarious the literary city can be.
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