Subway Reading

November 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

The New New Yorker

by Courtney Hilden

People do a lot of things on the subway, but one of the things people do a lot on the subway is read.  And not read glossy magazines or tabloids (though some of that does happen here and there) but read actual-bound-and-sold-at-the-Strand books.  Sure, people listen to their I-pods, play games on their cell phones and even sleep, but people are reading books just as often, if not more so.

For someone who is always hearing about the literary decline of our country and the death of art and all these other apocalyptic-sized predictions over culture, seeing people read books in their spare time was a wonderful surprise.  And, most interestedly, very few of these people are reading in Kindles and Nooks.  (Not that it matters so much.  I quite enjoyed this past Saturday morning when I read along with a young man a hilarious short essay about black holes and photons on his device.)  So, after a while of quietly observing this, I decided to try it myself.  I took my current recreational reading, May Sinclair’s Mary Olivier, and plunked down in a seat during my morning commute, and quickly lost myself in the struggles of a young woman with a controlling mother and alcoholic father.

I worried that maybe I would throw up, just because as a child I struggled with motion sickness.  But my stomach didn’t twitch, not even when we were underwater.  And I found other people checking my book out as I read.  It’s an obscure novel, so perhaps that was part of the appeal, but it was good to know maybe some unknown passenger, sitting across from me or hanging from one of the metal pipes was taking a book suggestion from me.  Or maybe when I was too busy dealing with main character Mary’s atheism, someone was behind me, wondering why her school felt the need to kick her out over it.

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