Seen on the Subway


Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
The Reader: Early thirties guy with a shaved head who looked like he should be on the tube in London. He had on a very nice herringbone coat, and one of those gigantic tie knots that are much more prevalent in the UK then they are here. He also was wearing a wedding ring on one hand and a thumb ring on the other. And, he wore his watch on right wrist rather than his left. Does this mean he is a lefty?

The Book: A classic novel that is on the Modern Library’s Top 100 List. From the B&N synopsis: “On a single, fateful day in Quauhnahuac, Mexico, 1938, a former British consul wrestles with his demons as his wife tries to rescue their marriage from his drinking problem.”

The Verdict: Since I am making my way through that top 100 list I will definitely get to this one sooner or later.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Reader: Twenty-something woman with a camel colored 3/4 length trench coat and a thermal mug of coffee which she drank from illegally. The Metro system here in DC is one of the cleanest in world because it is against the law to consume food or beverages anywhere in the system. Of course the law is not always obeyed but they occasionally hand out tickets for those who break the rules so people tend to abstain. You can carry the beverage or food, you just aren’t suppose to consume it until you leave the station.

The Book: What can I say about this one that doesn’t give too much away? Written by the author of The Remains of the Day.

The Verdict: I read and enjoyed this book. I look forward to seeing the film.

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriquez
The Reader: When I first saw this woman she wasn’t even reading anything, but she looked like Claire from Paperback Reader. And she had the tell tale signs of a reader like a Barnes and Noble tote bag. I must admit I followed her on the platform at Gallery Place to make sure we got on the same train car. It paid off when she pulled out a book (and even had a bookmark from a public library that read “Live, Read, Love”). And after all the effort to see what she was reading I had to include it here even though it is nonfiction.

The Book: The subtitle fills in what the title leaves out and makes it pretty self-explanatory: “An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.”

The Verdict: Seems kind of fascinating but not enough to make me pick it up.

15 thoughts on “Seen on the Subway

  1. Coffee and a Book Chick March 4, 2011 / 10:28 pm

    I miss DC (I went to Univ of Maryland 16+ years ago, now live in Florida), and the Metro is unbelievably clean. Good to read that it's still like that! I've been trying to get into audio books lately, and I've been listening to Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, narrated by Emilia Fox, who is just superbly brilliant. I think it's a British production, because I think there's another recording with a different narrater. Ms. Fox's voice is perfect, and quite honestly, I'll probably pick up another audio book if she's doing it!


  2. Mystica March 5, 2011 / 1:37 am

    I like the detailed descriptions!


  3. harriet March 5, 2011 / 4:51 am

    I read Under the Volcano many years ago — a brilliant, disturbing novel which I recommend highly. I like this feature on your blog!


  4. March 5, 2011 / 6:15 am

    I love this series – and Thomas, I think you must have a career in spying or crime fighting, because your attention to detail is Holmes-like. On your example, I have been staring more at my fellow travellers reading choices – and so far I have found that bus-riders tend to go for more more difficult, heavy books than tube-riders. I will continue this sociological study!


  5. Jim Murdoch March 5, 2011 / 7:50 am

    I haven't read Never Let Me Go but I have seen the film and was terribly moved by it. It's every bit as good as the film adaptation of The Remains of the Day. I've read that it's not doing so well at the box office which I think is a terrible shame. I would have no problem watching it again as I have done with The Remains of the Day which I think I've watched three times now. I keep meaning to read the books but somehow I keep missing them.


  6. LifetimeReader March 5, 2011 / 8:36 am

    Yesterday while out in DC for a couple of hours, I saw an older African American business-suited man reading Flannery O'Connor stories, a young white business-suited man reading an Italo Calvino book, and a gothic-punk teen girl (with an art school tote and a ring through her eyebrow) reading Pride and Prejudice. I kept thinking of you and wishing I had my camera. (Usually I only see old ladies reading The New Testament.)


  7. Darlene March 5, 2011 / 10:18 am

    Claire has a doppelganger! And yes, I would say that the swish-looking gentleman was a lefty.

    LOVE these posts, Thomas!


  8. Karenlibrarian March 5, 2011 / 12:12 pm

    I love these posts. I wish I could ride a subway somewhere so I could watch other people reading! The Tokyo subway system had by far the most readers I've ever seen, but sadly, I couldn't ever figure out what they were reading. Naturally, most of the time the books were in Japanese and booksellers put a brown paper cover around your purchases upon request (I think it's to keep the covers nice, not to hide them).


  9. winstonsdad March 5, 2011 / 1:31 pm

    more wonderful sightings Thomas ,all the best stu


  10. agoodstoppingpoint March 5, 2011 / 7:08 pm

    I love the investigative bent of these posts. Never Let Me Go was a great book, and I do need to check out the film. (And the first commenter has me curious about the audio version now.)

    – Christy


  11. C.B. James March 6, 2011 / 11:51 am

    That is one literate subway you're riding. I've read Under the Volcano and can recommend it highly.


  12. Paperback Reader March 7, 2011 / 4:42 am

    I have a doppleganger?! I am so relieved that she is a reader and I am intrigued by her reading material. I love that you stalked her onto the train!

    On the morning commute at the moment (ahem, using my iPhone rather than reading the book in my bag) and the young professional woman sitting beside me on the bus is engrossed in Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel; beautiful book.


  13. Ash March 9, 2011 / 10:43 pm

    Am I the last person on earth who hasn't read Never Let Me Go? I feel like I'm seeing it all over the place.


  14. Thomas at My Porch March 10, 2011 / 4:02 pm

    Book Chick: I never listen to audio books but you make it sound rather compelling. I will have to look into Emilia Fox.

    Mystica: Thanks.

    Harriet: Good to know that Under the Volcano is worth it.

    Lyndsey: Interesting observation about bus vs. tube.

    Jim: I am happy to know the film is worth the view. I don't think it has come out yet in the US.

    LIfetime: That is quite the array of books for one trip. I have toyed with the idea of a camera but that is too much work and probably too creepy.

    Darlene: It's too bad it wasn't the real Claire.

    Karen: A woman sat next to me this week with a book in Japanese. Needless to say it won't make my list this week.

    Karen @ S: I am glad you like it.

    Stu: Thanks.

    Christy: I think I am enjoying it more than I thought I would.

    CB: Keep in mind I am only pointing out the books I find interesting. There is plenty o'crap being read as well. But to your point DC is a pretty literate place.

    Claire: I don't think I would have considered her a doppleganger if she hadn't been a reader.

    Ash: You aren't the last person, but there is a reason so many people are blogging about it.


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