TAKING THE TRAINS
THE FORMATION AND STRUCTURE OF
“WRITING CULTURE” IN THE EARLY 1970S
The history of writing and the history of the “graffiti problem” are related but separable stories. The latter is the story of how New York City officials reacted to the former, and will be taken up in the next chapter. Here, I want to sketch out the way writing developed in New York City.
Writing is a complex cultural practice that continues to evolve, and as such, it bears the marks of several originating influences. These influences form a web of historical and cultural connections, a tangled, rhizome-like network that works against establishing a clear, singular “root.” Despite these difficulties and the partialness inherent in any narrative, it is worth following a few of the major threads that make up this dense network in order to situate writing in the specific cultural and historical contexts of the United States in the post-1965 period. Writing is not, as its critics commonly claim, simply a cultural aberration indicative of social decay in the central city. It is a long-standing aesthetic tradition that has always been in-