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Imaginary Cities

A Tour of Dream Cities, Nightmare Cities, and Everywhere in Between

For as long as humans have gathered in cities, those cities have had their shining—or shadowy—counterparts. Imaginary cities, potential cities, future cities, perfect cities. It is as if the city itself, its inescapable gritty reality and elbow-to-elbow nature, demands we call into being some alternative, yearned-for better place.
This book is about those cities. It’s neither a history of grand plans nor a literary exploration of the utopian impulse, but rather something different, hybrid, idiosyncratic. It’s a magpie’s book, full of characters and incidents and ideas drawn from cities real and imagined around the globe and throughout history. Thomas More’s allegorical island shares space with Soviet mega-planning; Marco Polo links up with James Joyce’s meticulously imagined Dublin; the medieval land of Cockaigne meets the hopeful future of Star Trek. With Darran Anderson as our guide, we find common themes and recurring dreams, tied to the seemingly ineluctable problems of our actual cities, of poverty and exclusion and waste and destruction. And that’s where Imaginary Cities becomes more than a mere—if ecstatically entertaining—intellectual exercise: for, as Anderson says, “If a city can be imagined into being, it can be re-imagined.” Every architect, philosopher, artist, writer, planner, or citizen who dreams up an imaginary city offers lessons for our real ones; harnessing those flights of hopeful fancy can help us improve the streets where we live.
Though it shares DNA with books as disparate as Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities, there’s no other book quite like Imaginary Cities. After reading it, you’ll walk the streets of your city—real or imagined—with fresh eyes.

576 pages | 5-3/8 x 8-1/2 | © 2017

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

Geography: Urban Geography

History: History of Ideas, Urban History


"A compendium of fantasy cities that takes its cue from Marco Polo via Italo Calvino’s InvisibleCities, this remarkable survey reveals the influence that the metropolis of the mind has had on the real thing."

Financial Times, Best Books of the Year

"A big, bustling book that looks at real cities through the prism of imaginary ones, from city planning to science fiction and everything in between. Anderson's nimble study is never less than stimulating."

New Scientist, Best Summer Reads 2015

"A dizzying and brilliant piece of creative non-fiction."

Guardian, Best Books of 2015

"Let there be garlands and kisses, please, for Darren Anderson, whose Imaginary Cities is a definitive survey."

Kevin Barry, Irish Independent

"One of those books you have to pause your reading every so often because it is sparking so many ideas in your head, and one of those wonderful reads which makes you want to read many of the books it references."

Forbidden Planet blog

"It defies handy summation. Imaginary Cities roams freely, and with easy authority, from the first scratchings on a cave wall to last month's architecture magazines. . . . This is a hugely ambitious book, and Anderson is delightful company as an author."

Icon Magazine

Table of Contents

The Men of a Million Lies, or How We Imagine the World

Plato's Cinema
The Deceptions of Memory
Cartography and the Canvas of Blank Spaces
Faust the Imperial Architect
The Dialectics of Inspiration
In Morphia Veritas
Here be Cities
Where the Wild Things Are
No North, No South, No East, No West

The Tower

The Sun King
Perfecting the Shipwreck
The Sublime, Twinned With the Abyss
Apocalypse Then
The Urbacides
Houses of Vice and Virtue
New Jerusalem, or Nevertown
The Ancient Modernists
The Map is the Real
Blueprinting Eternity
The Living Ruins
The Return of Mammon
City of Angels
Disovering the Diagonal
The Lightning Rod
Skyscraper Mania
Elevators Through the Stratosphere
The Golem
Vertical Suburbs
Sanctifying the Secular
Lift Off
It Came From the Depths
The Evaporating Cities
A Glowing Future

The Alchemical Cities

Cities Made Without Hands
The Wrath of God
The Drowned World
The Seven Invisible Cities of Gold

The Abiding Desire For No Place

The Thirteenth Hour
The Biological City
The Jungle
The Glass Delusion
The House of Constructions
Books Versus Stone
Remembering the Future
The Mechanical Heart
Further Sleepwalking
Of Steam and Clockwork
Tomorrow Will Continue Forever
Sealess Ships, Grounded Spacecraft and the Curse of
the Genie
Home is Where the Harm Is
The Cinematic Dystopia of the Everyday
In Love With Velocity
On the Road
The Crystal Palaces
Plotting the Stars
Flux Us
The Megalomania of Cells
Revolution! Revolution! Revolution!
Releasing the Golem

The Turk

The Pit and the Pendulum
The Gothic Trojan Horse
The All-Seeing I
In Defence of Cali ban
The Gaze
The Blind Watchmakers
Guest List
The Magic Kingdom
The Last Laugh
No Man's City
Of Wealth and Taste
Nothing Ever Happens

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Fall
The Wounds of Possibility
About the author

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