Monday, April 7, 2014

Fiction Friction (#2): Urban vs. Rural vs. Suburban Setting

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

Note: This discussion post is more about personal preference and real life than about "fiction," although I do tie it back to books.

I must confess that this discussion post came out of a) thinking about college and b) reading Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. 

Why? Well, the thing is, I'm growing up in a suburban area that's really close to one of the biggest cities in the world: New York City. On top of that, my extended family, for the most part, lives in a pretty big urban city in Brazil as well: Sao Paulo. I also often visit my godmother and my sister's godparents, all of who live in suburban Connecticut. So you see, I'm pretty used to living right by/in a big city, but I also know a great deal about living in the suburbs. In thinking about college, I've obviously had to think about where I want to go to college, not just in terms of in regards to the US (Northeast, South, West, Midwest, etc) but also in terms of urban vs. suburban and to a lesser extent, rural areas. For the most part, I've realized that although I love more suburban schools because my gosh are their campuses GORGEOUS, I also love being in or near a city. Growing up near one of the biggest cities in the world, I'm used to having all that NYC has to offer right near me, ranging from the NY Public Library to museums to Lincoln Center to Fifth Avenue and the Fashion District to Central Park to Broadway to Times Square and to so much more. I love always having something to do. I sometimes like the anonymity that a big city provides. Sure, sometimes I don't like it, but generally, it's nice to be in a place where there's always something to do, where there's so much culture and diversity. I love that. I love being able to easily go somewhere via the subway. I love the idea of never getting completely bored. I love the idea of being able to so readily meet new people. 

But as I was reading Open Road Summer, I also realized that there's something quite nice about more rural and suburban but closer to rural areas. There's something about vast fields and close-knit communities. There's something about the general calmness. There's something about being able to experience the true beauty of nature. There's something about being able to see the stars at night. Perhaps I'm being idealistic. I wouldn't know. I've never lived in a rural area. So correct me if I'm wrong. Of course there are drawbacks as well. I personally don't know how long I could stand it before I would just want to get out of there. But maybe I'd like it. I don't know if I'll ever find out, to be honest. But it just got me thinking. Am I a city girl? Am I a suburban girl? I don't think I could ever be a country girl. But it's interesting to think about how different things would be if I lived in a different setting.

And I was thinking about how it affects book settings as well. How much does the setting (U vs. SU v. R) affect a character? Is there something inherently different about a book set in a large city as opposed to a small, rural town? I feel like in some ways, there are very stark contrasts, but at the same time, characters can have similar experiences and make similar decisions, regardless of the setting. But since reading Open Road Summer, I've been thinking about how different the story and characters are from what I would expect if they were from a big city. Maybe it wouldn't be so completely different. Maybe it would. I just know that I think it would have a different feel to it, a different voice.

What do you think? Is there something inherently different about books set in cities as opposed to small towns? Is there a different tone or voice or focus? And personally, where do you see yourself most comfortably? Are you a city person, a suburban person, or a country/rural person? Do you think we're somewhat shaped by the area where we live or grow up?

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