One book that will be discussed in my Writing the City class at Hugo House in July will be PD Smith's City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age. The genius of this work is found in its structure: It really is written like a walk through a city. And as an urban pedestrian often returns to the same block, same building, same park from completely different starting points, the writer returns to the same passage, the same thought, the same piece of urban history from completely different starting points. One such starting point is this history of graffiti in cities. Smith writes:
Graffiti is certainly not a new kid on the urban block. In ancient Pompeii houses were brightly painted in reds, yellow and blue. Ideal surfaces for everything from electoral slogans and advertisements to spontaneous graffiti. One popular piece of doggerel found on at least three walls in Pompeii indicates the popularity of graffiti writing among city dwellers: ‘I am amazed that you haven't fallen down, 0 wall / Loaded as you are with all this scrawl."‘ Walking through the streets of Pompeii, you would have seen syrupy lover's rhymes such as this: ‘I wish l could be a ring on your finger for an hour nomore.' While on another wall, you could spot the kind of obscene boasts familiar to all city dwellers throughout history: ‘Here I fucked loads of girls.’ And. incvitalily. the natural results of such behaviour
also appeared: ‘Atimetus got me pregnant'.
The city itself is a kind of writing.