As literary genres go, bathroom graffiti ranks somewhere between obscenities carved into desks and poorly spelled comments in terms of respectability. Yet it’s still a form that could reveal interesting things, which is why a group of researchers took a series of fact-finding trips to public stalls across America. Their takeaway? “The mere fact of being in a public bathroom could be skewing how people choose to present themselves when they uncap that Sharpie.” Related: Buzz Poole on The History of American Graffiti.
Even if you've already seen the outstanding documentary Wordplay, you'll still want to check out this Atlantic article on how Will Shortz makes his New York Times crossword puzzles.
I'd heard that the New Yorker excerpt was the opening of Jonathan Franzen's new novel Freedom, but it turns out it is preceded in the novel by this: "The news about Walter Berglund wasn't picked up locally--he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now--but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in Washington. His old neighbors had some difficulty reconciling the quotes about him in the Times ('arrogant,' 'high-handed,' 'ethically compromised') with the generous, smiling, red-faced 3M employee they remembered pedaling his commuter bicycle up Summit Avenue in February snow; it seemed strange that Walter, who was greener than Greenpeace and whose own roots were rural, should be in trouble now for conniving with the coal industry and mistreating country people. Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds."
Fancy a stroll? Flaneur, a new Berlin-based magazine, profiles one street per issue. It explores the culture, literature, people, and landmarks that make each street unique. The first is Berlin's Kantstrasse. Pair with: Hyperreal Cartography, a tumblr of "real maps of places that exist but don't."