Seen on the Subway


It has been several weeks (months?) since I last did a Seen on the Subway post. The only reason I haven’t done one sooner is that I haven’t really noticed anything interesting in anyone’s hands lately. Admittedly I haven’t been looking as much–too into my own reading material–but more than that I have just seen a lot of bestseller type stuff and what would be more boring than me telling you that I saw someone on the Metro reading a bestseller.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Reader: Late 30s/early 40s man in one of those grey suits that has kind of a green tinge to it with a non-descript green tie. His work ID lanyard was from the University of Florida. I actually saw this gentleman twice on successive days. Both times I saw him on the bus in my neighborhood going to the Metro station in the morning. But the second day I also saw later in my commute after I had changed from one train to another. Turns out we both got off at the same stop.

The Book: Rather than say anything about this classic novel that everyone is sure to already know, I will comment on the particular edition the man was reading. He had this very cool edition seen in the photo here, and coincidentally the exact same edition I have at home. But wait! Then when I saw him again the next day I noticed he was reading a different book and I thought “Hmm, this guy likes to mix it up.” On closer inspection, however, although he was reading a different book, it was the same title. For some reason he had another edition of The Sun Also Rises. He went from the edition shown here to something with a rather plain blue cover. I almost broke my rule of not speaking to my subject to ask him why he switched editions. The only thing I can think of is that given the unimpressive plain cover of the edition he was reading on day two, is that it probably was an annotated/academic edition.

The Verdict: I own the book and I generally like Hemingway so I will definitely read this one.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

The Reader: A twenty-something pocket gay at the end of a work day with his bow tie untied, slouching way down in his seat. (For those unfamiliar with the term “pocket gay”, it was coined by Jack on Will and Grace when Jack referred to a rather diminutive guy (not just short, but petite) with whom Will had a date. Since then I have used the term to refer to any well groomed man of similar stature–whether they appear to be gay or not.)  The clip below has terrible quality video but still funny when Jack explains.

The Book: Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is one of my favorite books of all times. And I enjoyed the film Bright Young Things based on Waugh’s Vile Bodies. But in general I am not a big fan of his more satirical stuff. A little too whimsical and chaotic for me. This one, however, is billed as an Anglo-American tragedy, so maybe it will be more my thing. Still it is hard to picture Evelyn Waugh (or any Englishman for that matter) in Los Angeles.

The Verdict: This rather short novel was in the stack of books I was going to attack last weekend when I was going to have My Own Private Readathon. Since that never happened I am going to try and make this weekend (a long one at that) a reading weekend so I will probably get to this one soon.

15 thoughts on “Seen on the Subway

  1. Carol May 27, 2011 / 9:46 am

    I love these posts. Your descriptions of the readers are as interesting as the books!


  2. chasingbawa May 27, 2011 / 10:03 am

    It's so weird but I've been seeing references to The Sun Also Rises everywhere! Plus I just reserved it at my library last week after finishing A Moveable Feast. Can't wait to read it!


  3. Margaret Evans Porter May 27, 2011 / 10:30 am

    Both of these are on my list of faves. There was a film version of The Loved One but it can't capture the wackiness of the novel. And various cinema treatments of The Sun Also Rises, of course. Hands down, my favourite Hemingway.


  4. bookssnob May 27, 2011 / 10:49 am

    I just had a shaky shoulder silent laughing moment at my desk at 'pocket gay'! I LOVE that episode! I have a gay friend who is called Pocket Tristan for precisely that reason!!


  5. Ti May 27, 2011 / 10:53 am

    Watching that clip reminded me just how much I miss the show. Was that Harry Connick, Jr. in the elevator? Love him.

    As for the different book copy…maybe he lost his PB version and then checked out a hardback version from the Library (which would be easy since he works at a university).


  6. savidgereads May 27, 2011 / 11:14 am

    I loved The Loved One, its hilarious and brilliant and rather dark in some ways too. You HAVE to read it!


  7. Paperback Reader May 27, 2011 / 1:37 pm

    The Loved One is also one loved by me. I'm currently reading Brideshead Revisited (yes, for the very first time).

    So, my “seen on the train” story is best-seller boring. Two girls in their twenties were sitting across from me, both reading the same best-selling book and oblivious to the other reading it (both were quite close to the end). One was reading the circus cover edition of Water for Elephants and one was reading the ghastly Robert Pattinson film tie-in edition. There are several assumptions that can be made about the young women but I shall refrain.

    Pocket gay! I love Just Jack.


  8. Daniel-Halifax May 27, 2011 / 6:18 pm

    God, I forgot how funny that show was! I'm in stitches! And at 5'4 I'm starting to wonder about myself?

    As for Waugh, I generally love him. I loved 'The Loved One' and recently read 'A Handful of Dust' in Italy. At the moment it was the best thing for me.


  9. StuckInABook May 27, 2011 / 6:50 pm

    I adore The Loved One, hope you like it! Best of the three I've read by Waugh (other two are Put Out More Flags and Decline & Fall – yes, horror of horrors, I have not read Brideshead.)


  10. Mrs. B. May 27, 2011 / 7:03 pm

    I recently reread The Sun Also Rises and loved it. The first time I read it was when I was 18 and I didn't care for it at all. This time I appreciated all the nuances and Hemingway's sparse writing which was wonderful.


  11. Karen K. May 27, 2011 / 8:42 pm

    I am the opposite, I prefer Waugh's satire. I loved Decline and Fall but I still haven't read The Loved One — I started it a couple of years ago but my own dog had just died and I just could not read about a pet funeral service. It's probably hilarious but it was the wrong time.

    And I cannot believe I had never seen that bit on Will & Grace — that was too funny. I don't know why I stopped watching it. I guess I'll have to watch it all over again, I forgot how funny that show was. After I've finished all of Upstairs, Downstairs.


  12. music-books-steve May 28, 2011 / 10:08 am

    I've read virtually all of Waugh, including things like Helena, his bio-novel about Constantine the Great's mother. It was a college and immediately after enthusiasm. When I go back to the books I sometimes find I like them less; rather mean-spirited. As I remember, The Loved One is very funny. I certainly remember the scene in the movie version where Liberace [!] makes a cameo appearance as a funeral home casket salesmen. Liberace scene clip at YouTube


  13. Relish May 28, 2011 / 11:31 am

    I love these Seen on the Subway posts…I like relating the books to your description of the people reading them..So much so that I find my self bending over backwards on the bus to see what people are reading nowadays..

    My bf has an excellent first edition of 'The Sun also Rises' back in the days when it was called 'Fiesta' . I can't wait to read it.


  14. Biblibio May 29, 2011 / 1:40 pm

    That's really interesting that the man was reading from two different editions of the same book. Maybe he lost his copy on his way home the first day, stopped at the used bookstore by his house and got another copy which he then took the following morning. That seems like a perfectly plausible, logical and hardly convoluted explanation!


  15. Thomas at My Porch May 31, 2011 / 9:48 am

    Carol: I am glad you like them.

    Sakura: I have both of those titles in my TBR pile. I think I will read TSAR first.

    Margaret: I tried to start The Loved One, but it didn't take. I will have to go back to it.

    Rachel: Does Pocket Tristan know that he is called Pocket Tristan?

    Ti: That is indeed Harry Connick, Jr.

    Simon S: I will, just need to find the right mood.

    Claire: My book club tried to get me to read Water for Elephants saying that my aversion to all things circus related wouldn't be a factor. After about 30 pages I realized they were lying. The whole damn thing is about the circus. And then to see the film trailer. I nearly broke out in hives.

    Daniel: Jason Marsden, the actor who played the pocket gay is only 5'1″.

    Simon T: See Brideshead is so different than his other books and I read it first (and about 5 times at that) before I tried any of the others.

    Mrs. B: A little age is required for many a good book.

    Karen: I love the show Will and Grace, but generally am annoyed by the characters Will and Grace. If it wasn't for Jack and Karen, I don't think I would like it much.

    Steve: Being a casket salesman would certainly explain Liberace's taste.

    Relish: Peeking at book titles can make one look a bit odd.

    Biblio: I might end up asking him if I see him again.


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