Morris The Village Voice, by Doris Rueger, is a children’s book written from the perspective of an advertising column. The column stands in the main square, witnessing the events of the village and providing a place for people to put up their signs and announce upcoming events. Unfortunately time, pigeons and dogs take their toll on the column and the mayor and advertising committee start planning to replace Morris with a glitzy billboard. Will the children and their parents be able to save Morris?
A village advertising column provides an interesting center for a book. It can’t move (other than rotating on its motor) and it doesn’t speak much though its whole purpose is communication. One of the lines I relate to is this one: “I have always been very shy and afraid to say anything, but somehow I suddenly worked up the courage to speak for myself.” It is one thing for the column to allow others to speak through it or for it to announce what others want, another for it to speak personally, about itself. I can very much relate to that.
Time is somewhat flexible. Does the story take place over months, years, decades? The children remember how the ice cream man used to sell his goods near the column and the puppet man work. The changes that have happened are not just the column becoming worn and old but a decrease in public activity next to it. When the parents admitted they felt guilty of “not honoring and appreciating me” what exactly were they not honoring? They could be speaking of the cement pillar, the practice of an active community life or the ability of people to communicate through postering.
We don’t have an advertising column here in my city. There are a couple of city owned signs where charities and organizations can have their announcement made but less official groups (such as the anti-poverty organization) don’t qualify to have our notices placed there. The library and city center both have bulletin boards but the library will not allow notices of a political nature. The same goes for the bulletin boards at the grocery stores. So we turn to putting posters up on light poles. It’s not legal (without a permit, which we never have) but we do it anyway. An activist friend of mine commented on facebook a while ago that he doesn’t know how effective the signs downtown are but that “it nonetheless has value as a small intervention into the character of urban space.”