The true idea of a city

What is it to describe a world? How would we reduce our own surroundings to writing, if we felt the urge and had the energy? Would we begin with a bird’s-eye view and then narrow the focus as we descended to a key intersection, the local version of Main and Vine? Or would we enter the city like a stranger, passing from countryside to suburbs to some imposing cluster of buildings at the heart of the urban space—a town hall or church or department store? Perhaps we would organize our description sociologically, begining with the municipal power elite or working upward from the workers. We could even strike a spiritual note, starting with a Fourth of July oration or a sermon. The possibilities seem infinite, or at least extensive enough to be paralyzing. For how can one put ‘the true idea of a city’ on paper, especially if one cares about the city and the supply of paper is endless?
— Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton, "A Bourgeois Puts His World in Order," in The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (New York: Basic Books, 1984), 108.