The Writing on the (Bathroom) Wall


Alison Morris - July 26, 2007

Last night Gareth and I spent a fantastic evening at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square. A wonderful old art-house cinema most evenings, the Brattle became a concert venue last night for musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, currently performing together as The Swell Season. The duo’s stars are currently rising at a furious rate, fueled by the success of Once, the new film in which they play the romantic leads, and the turn-out for this concert proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that this pair has truly "arrived." When we got to the Brattle, the "standby" line of people hoping to get into the sold-out show was just as long as the line of ticket-holders. We were certainly fortunate, blessed, thrilled to be in the latter group, as this concert was one of the best I’ve attended in a long, long time.

Last night’s trip to the Brattle afforded me the opportunity to see more than just music, though. I also saw something I come across so VERY rarely: graffiti referring to children’s books. Stop and think for a moment: when was the last time you visited a bathroom stall or empty alleyway and read something about a character from a picture book or a chapter book or even (while it might seem more fitting) a young adult novel? Truth be told, I see this every day, as we’ve got a "graffiti stall" in our women’s room where we scrawl book-related remarks all over the case, but that’s a topic for another post. In this case I’m talking about real, illegal, scrawled-in-a-public-place-that’s-not-a-bookstore-or-publisher children’s book graffiti. Have you seen it ever? No? Then you probably haven’t visited the right-hand stall of the women’s restroom at the Brattle.

In the right-hand stall, on the right-hand wall, someone keen to hold onto cinema gems like this one has written "I love the Brattle!" And below it someone else has written, "Everyone loves the Brattle! Even Anastasia Krupnik," and then there’s an arrow drawn to some explanatory text below it which reads, "in the books by Lois Lowery [sic]."

Upon reading this lovely little note I confess to experiencing two very clear emotions: the first was a secret thrill to have glimpsed an elicit mention of a children’s book, and the second was a prickly annoyance at the fact that this scribbler misspelled Lois Lowry‘s name. I suppose you can’t take the children’s book nerd out of the children’s book renegade.

Have you had graffiti sightings like this? Seriously?  If so, do tell. I once saw "I love Alaska" in the bathroom of a local coffee shop, but, alas, I’ll probably never know if it had anything to do with the Alaska introduced by John Green in his beloved first novel. Knowing how much some people hate Junie B. Jones (as was recounted in today’s New York Times), I can’t help wondering if there aren’t a few unflattering slurs on her name in water closets somewhere. The Fuse #8 (a.k.a. librarian Elizabeth Bird) was quoted in that article, but she didn’t mention having seen any in the Donnell Central Children’s Room, so…? Perhaps at preschools then. In crayon. With invented spellings.

If you want to hear the music that got me out to the Brattle last night, you can watch and listen to The Swell Season tonight (July 26th) at 9:30pm when NPR.org will be airing a live webcast of their performance at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. Or you can go take in a screening of Once, preferably at your local independent movie theatre.

3 thoughts on “The Writing on the (Bathroom) Wall

  1. Ary

    Ahh, the intellectual bathroom scrawls of Harvard Square establishments, I miss them so… My favorite was a series of three comments in the bathroom at Shay’s: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” “I did those things” “Oh please you people. Read Virginia Woolf.”

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  2. D

    On the flip side, a bathroom in a Boston bar – DeLux – whose walls are papered with pages from “Eloise” remains free of graffiti. Who would defile it?

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  3. Fuse #8

    In a perfect world maybe there would be obscure kidlit graffiti in our bathrooms. Something along the lines of, “Pern forever. Eragon never,” or something along those lines. Alas, nothing so creative shows up here. *sigh*

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