Degree awarded: M.F.A. Literature. American University
Handsome City is a collection of original short stories that are set in and around the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Handsome City takes its title from Charles Dickens's American Notes and attempts to unpack Dickens's assertion that Philadelphia is "a handsome city, but distractingly regular." These stories explore the ways in which Philadelphia both is and is not like the gridded layout that Dickens ultimately found so boring. In what ways do the lives of a city's population take after its design, and is that a good or bad thing? The collection itself mimics the city's own layout, alternating between lengthy and flash fiction in the way that Center City Philadelphia intersects short numbered blocks with longer avenues. In fact, these stories take on questions about their own creation and construction: in which ways do they belong to the author, and in which ways do they belong to the city? Does their telling free them from associations held within, or reinforce what we think we already know about The City of Brotherly Love? In American Notes, Dickens says he would have "given the world for a crooked street." This collection offers several such streets cutting across the real and imagined Philadelphia.
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