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Possibly well-read vandals caught on video

| Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two graffiti vandals misquoted T.S. Eliot when they spray-painted lines from one of his poems on an exterior wall of the Carnegie Library in Oakland.

A staff member found the graffiti Monday morning, library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes said. A library surveillance tape shows two white males who appear to be in their 20s spray-painting the building around 2:30 a.m., she said.

The vandals painted the phrase "I wish I were a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas" and attributed it to J. Alfred Prufrock.

Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" contains a similar line, which begins: "I should have been a pair of ragged claws ... ."

A nearby painted message said: "This is not a good way to handle my problems." Another, "For freedom -- enter here," was spray-painted on the library's front steps.

Thinnes called the graffiti "unusual."

"I don't know if it was a message or a prank," she said. "It was an expensive prank."

Library custodians managed to remove the graffiti from the front steps, but a contractor will have to power-wash the words from the walls, Thinnes said. She didn't know how much that would cost.

"It's disheartening that someone would target the library for graffiti, whether it's for a literary reference or not," Thinnes said. "By doing this, they actually took away services that are meant for customers."

The Carnegie Museum of Art, next door to the library, is featuring the work of a former graffiti artist as part of an exhibition called "Life on Mars."

Barry McGee's installation features sculptures of males using spray-paint cans to draw on walls, along with acrylic paintings and drawings by McGee, museum spokeswoman Tey Stiteler said.

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