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Thursday, December 9, 2010

San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles: Discovering your own infinite city

Reading Adam Kirsch’s recent review of Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas—and viewing some of the book’s engaging maps on 7x7—makes us want to take up the author’s call to “discover your own infinite city.” Kirsch describes Solnit’s lyrical approach to cartography:
Ordinary maps show only the physical infrastructure that these "many worlds" share—streets, rivers, monuments. The maps in Infinite City, on the other hand, treat the physical city as a blank slate, on which many different experiences can be overwritten, like texts on a palimpsest.
Like poems, some of these maps are inspired by witty conceits and unlikely juxtapositions. "Death and Beauty" plots the locations of the 99 murders that took place in San Francisco in 2008 and, on the same map, shows where to find stands of Monterey cypress—trees whose "stable, silent lives," Solnit writes, "made them the right counterweight to violent death."
These maps reminded us of other reimaginings of familiar places, like the Literary Map of Manhattan that Randy Cohen and Nigel Holmes created in 2005 which showed where “imaginary New Yorkers lived, worked, played, drank, walked and looked at ducks.” Or New York Magazine’s “Ten Little Cities” which contended that “each person’s city is a map of his obsessions.” (Don’t miss the “Lit Guy” map.) Or Wired’s painstakingly researched Unofficial Thomas Pynchon Guide to Los Angeles, a must companion to his 2009 L.A. homage Inherent View.

What’s your favorite remapping or reimagining of a familiar place?

Related LOA works: Writing New York: A Literary Anthology; Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology

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