The city was lovely. There could be no place in the world to which he belonged so completely. That was why he’d always dreamed of leaving, and why he’d always been so afraid to go.

Daniel Alarcón, At Night We Walk in Circles

New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it—once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.

John Steinbeck

We’re crowded, yet we have room for you, not merely space for your body, your household goods, but for your spirit, too. We’ll nourish that spirit, with our schools, our books, our galleries, our playgrounds, our parks, yes, with the very air that we breathe, that mixture of ferments and fumes, that hell’s brew of our summer streets. It’s the air of a volatile city, stirring and doing.

Zelda Popkin, Open Every Door

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.

Jane Jacobs

In the suburbs, everywhere you go you’re trespassing, but a city is public property; if you’re there, it’s yours, and we set our feet down on our city as firmly as kings.

Barbara Holland

Living in cities is an art, and we need the vocabulary of art, of style, to describe the peculiar relationship between man and material that exists in the continual creative play of urban living. The city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare, is as real [as], maybe more real than, the hard city one can locate on maps.

Jonathan Raban

We all have our truth of a place. There is no universal narrative of any city that is also real.

Sarah Thankam Mathews, All This Could Be Different

You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed So-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. . . . Five different neighborhoods coming and going between then and now, other people’s other cities. Or fifteen, twenty-five, a hundred neighborhoods. Thousands of people pass that storefront every day, each one haunting the streets of his or her own New York, not one of them seeing the same thing.

Colson Whitehead

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

If I had to live in a city I think I would prefer New Orleans to any other—both Southern and Catholic and with indications that the Devil’s existence is freely recognized.

Flannery O’Connor

Whenever I happen to be in a city of any size, I marvel that riots do not break out every day: massacres, unspeakable carnage, a doomsday chaos. How can so many human beings coexist in a space so confined without destroying each other, without hating each other to death?

E.M. Cioran

I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighborhood of man.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Every night when I turn the lights out in my sixteenth-floor living room before I go to bed, I experience a shock of pleasure as I see the banks of lighted windows rising to the sky, crowding round me, and feel myself embraced by the anonymous ingathering of city dwellers. This swarm of human hives, also hanging anchored in space, is the New York design offering generic connection. The pleasure it gives soothes beyond all explanation.

Vivian Gornick

What is the city but the people?

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus

For all the allure of speciously stress-free suburbs, for all the grinding of city life, cities endure.

A. Bartlett Giamatti