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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Contents of book, toilet not dissimilar”

    Doug Rices book From the Stall, offers an interesting take on bathroom graffiti.
    Doug Rice’s book ‘From the Stall,’ offers an interesting take on bathroom graffiti.

    What compels a person to write on a bathroom wall? That’s the question Doug Rice’s self-published “”From the Stall”” sets out to answer. But there’s deeper, scarier stuff in these pages than Rice seems to realize.

    The book consists of more than 100 pages of photographs of bathroom walls with writing on them. These stalls have the usual inhabitants: dirty limericks, phalluses and crudely drawn naked women. But there are a few stranger creations that pop up here and there – like an emaciated face, sketched out with careful attention to detail on page 24, which declares “”It’s a beautiful day”” with almost audible sarcasm.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of photographs Rice includes are unremarkable. Even worse, he’s written stupid comments next to all of these photographs. Worst of all, all the photographs were taken in Michigan. Judging from the evidence here, no one interesting in Michigan has ever used a public restroom.

    “”From the Stall””
    Doug Rice
    List price $14.99
    www.fromthestall.com
    1/2 star

    Contrary to what Rice might think, it’s not at all remarkable to write something scatological on a bathroom wall – it’s a few inches away from a toilet, for God’s sake. What’s more interesting is when someone writes something that appears to have no meaning whatsoever.

    “”THE WORDS OF THE PROPHETS ARE NOT HERE,”” we find on page 86. “”I beg to differ,”” Rice snarks on the edge of the page, reducing a truly weird artifact to something trivial. On its own, left to say nothing except what it says, the statement is magnificently ambiguous. Why on Earth would someone bother to write that? Who looks for prophets in public restrooms?

    “”My smiles an open wound without you,”” screams a Michigan men’s room wall on page 41. What makes the line so creepy is the way it’s written. It’s not a scribble, but neatly written with carefully looped letters. It almost glows with psychopathic intent. It’s an act of pure madness. You can imagine the rest of the book’s “”population”” backing away in horror.

    “”Albanainans are gay!”” shouts a wall on page 89. On the opposing wall, and page, we find this rejoinder: “”Who ever wrote this cant even spell Albanians you ignorant fool.”” It’s a refreshing touch of back-and-forth in a book that otherwise consists of solitary braying.

    “”Everything you ever love will be taken away,”” warns a wall on page 101. As a sucker for mysterious intimations of the end of the world, I find that one irresistible.

    On page 19, a dirty verse begins with the line “”Here I sit, all brokenhearted…”” No prizes for guessing what “”brokenhearted”” is rhymed with. Apparently this one is an old favorite.

    Did the original writer realize he, she or it was quoting the opening line of “”Here I Sit,”” an obscure 1965 song by the Ronettes? Did he, she or it hear the song once and unconsciously mumble it under his, her or its breath for years until one day an empty bathroom wall cried out for the invention of an obscene verse to go with it?

    I don’t know, and I suspect the real story is more boring. But what’s really telling is that Rice focuses on this stupid verse and ignores the far more important line beneath it,

    written in what looks like ballpoint pen: “”Where do you guys get all these fruity colored pens?”” That’s what I’d like to know, too.

    At the end of the book, Rice includes six blank bathroom walls. Of course, no bathroom wall is truly blank, and they all wind up looking like abstract expressionist paintings from the 1950s. After the avalanche of obscenity that came before, there’s a refreshing quietness and serenity to these final pages. If you’ve got nothing to say, better to say nothing at all.

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