Return to Bibliography
Clay, Grady. Real Places: An Unconventional Guide to America’s Generic Landscapes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Landscape journalist Grady Clay’s Real Places defines 124 generic place name—such as “Curbside,” “The Row,” “Superblock,’ and “Wreck Site”—for specific types of places in the landscape of American cities. Clay chose this limited number of generic place names from a significantly larger collection of names he has compiled during nearly thirty years of “cross-sectioning”—a process of examining and describing while physically moving through a city from edge to edge and passing through its center—cities and gathering place names from other people. Clay divides his 124 place names into nine chapters, in which he arranges the entries alphabetically, and the nine chapters into three sections. These three sections—“The Center,” “The Front,” and “Out There”—divide cities into three geographical regions. One of Clay’s goals is to understand the changing relationships among threes three regions. Real Places is more than a dictionary: brief essays that define each region begins all three sections, the few explanatory paragraphs that begin each chapter draw connections among the assembled terms, and various images and marginalia illustrate the “generalness” of the terms by showing how they can be applied in many different parts of the United States. Real Places’s engaging structure makes it an effective tool for documenting, analyzing, and interpreting cities. [K. Park]