Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spotted: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Where: L-train
Who was reading: A bottle blond in a black skirt, red tights, black legwarmers and red plaid scarf. Also white fingerless gloves.
Finally! An answer to the age-old riddle of what’s black, white and red all over.
Digital reading device: Nook.
If this device were a Dickens character… It would be the ghost of Christmas past. So last year, amirite? Although the Sony E-reader is even more passé, I don’t think anyone ever gave or received one of those for Christmas, so it would have to be the ghost of something else old.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Avast ye bookish sea-dogs! Weigh your anchors at The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A tall blonde man on the precipice of male pattern baldness. 
Multi-media! His earbud cords disappeared into the neck of his jacket, and peeked out from the bottom, snaking into a pocket. 
What was he listening to? Based on his interest in Australia it was definitely either Crayon Fields or Kylie Minogue.
According to this really oddly formatted review on the Brown University Website: "Hughes's book was written as a response to a variety of Australian “founding myths”,  all aimed at erasing the (convict) Stain. Hughes dissects these arguments in masterly fashion, marshaling a combination of facts and his singularly elegant rhetorical style. He has no patience for a polite revisionism of the nation's founding . . . and lambasts those who would try to sugar-coat the country's origins."
Don't you just love... nonfiction born of bilious academic quarrels?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Spotted: The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A young asian woman in a long white coat, beaming infectiously.
The more I look around... the more I see people smiling on the train. It's weird, because I've learned to expect glassy-eyed stares and miserable "I'm-barely-tolerating-this" sort of expressions from my fellow straphangers. Perhaps those who read have well and truly shrugged off the drudgerous spirit that hangs so heavy over the subway. Hooray for books!
Ridiculously simplified synopsis (via Shelfari): "Girl looses her brother to death and she and her dead sisters boyfriend don't know how to deal with the grief [sic]."
Ha-ha, "looses her brother to death?" But actually it does sound pretty good. Here's a sampling of the reviews:

  • "A must read."—Girls Life Magazine
  • "Unusually rich with both insight and breathless romance." —The LA Times
  • "This well-intentioned story about love and loss too often gets tangled in its own emo." —Kirkus Reviews
  • "Funky and fun." —Romantic Times
Is it just me... Or does Romantic Times seem to have reviewed a different book altogether?

Spotted: How To Start And Run Your Own Corporation by Peter I. Hupalo

Who was reading: A man who looked to be in his mid-30s with one large hoop earring, brown boat-like shoes, and fields of stubble. He wore a faded corduroy jacket and toted a lumpy backpack.
His eyes kept fluttering shut... Every now and then he'd give a start and snap them open, rubbing his thumbs over the eyelids as though to massage out the exhaustion, but eventually he set aside the book and nodded off. It was 8:30 p.m.
Now I'm not a doctor. And I'm no expert in starting and running your own corporation either. But I do know this is ain't the way, sonn; quitters never succeed . . . unless they have rich parents.
More secrets to success: 1. Substitute the backpack with a slick angular briefcase. 2. Never admit to reading a library book, it makes you look poor.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spotted: Strange Battles of the Civil War by Webb Garrison Jr.

Where: Southwest flight 1684 from DEN to PDX.
Who was reading: A hirsute gentleman with a large rounded belly straining against purple suspenders.
When asked what he was reading: The man blushed and in a reserved Texas drawl, he mumbled "Oh, just some trash."
Don't look an honorary "horse" in the mouth. This little book contains some way cool facts. For example, on October 29, 1863, "union mules stampede Confederate troops at Wauhatchie, Tennessee, and the Federal quartermaster recommends they be brevated to the rank of 'horse.'" (via Amazon). 
Giddyup! Maybe this means my petition to be promoted to cyborg actually stands a chance.
Supplementary reading: He also had copy of Sports Afield—a magazine on big game hunting—which led to an intriguing dialogue on animal attacks.
If ever you should happen upon an angered Cape Buffalo in the wild, beware! "They look at you like you owe them money." said the man.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spotted: Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction to the Kabbalah by J. Abelson

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A twenty-something guy with lively, flickering eyes, wearing a voluminous black coat and skinny, skinny jeans. He stood alert and was kind enough to give directions to some strangers who were unfamiliar with the South Slope area of Brooklyn. Actually, the skinniness of his jeans made me wonder how familiar he was with South Slope himself.
Was his interest in Kabbalah spiritual or academic? This is what I found myself contemplating as I observed him. I'd put my money on 'academic', but who knows? It's rarely safe to make assumptions when it comes to religion.
Even more importantly, would he date a goy? Next time I'll be sure to ask.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spotted: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Where: N-train
Who was reading: A young man in a houndstooth scarf and beat-up Chuck Taylors. The laces on his right shoe were so threadbare they were as skinny as headphone cords.
Speaking of Chucks: I just watched this video, and it is so creepy! But I can't put my finger on why. Is the slow, deliberate pace? The knife? The softly undulating shadows? The heavy breathing? And what is the filmmaker trying to say exactly?
The book contains: Sedaris shorts both new and old, jumbled together and wrapped up in shiny holiday packaging, not unlike terrible chocolates in an advent calendar. 
One story, entitled "Dinah, the Christmas Whore": calls to mind this now defunct (I think?) blog. But the resemblance doesn't really carry beyond the title.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sci-fi/Fantasy Fridays: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells

Where: N-train
Digital reading device: Motorola smart-phone with chipped orange paint.
Who was reading: A 30-ish woman with frizzy hair, clad in a floor-length brown coat that had something of a bronze sheen.
If she were a fantasy character... she would be the keeper of a prestigious unicorn stable. The daughters and sons of the aristocracy would come from miles around to take exorbitantly priced riding lessons, and if she were particularly savvy, she might also run a side-business in carved horn drug paraphernalia.
Published in 1896: (an anagram of the year of my birth!) this is the tale of Edward Pendrick, a ship wreckee who finds himself stranded on a sinister little isle in which the eponymous villain, Dr. Moreau, creates monstrosities out of living creatures.
Fun Fact: The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) was formed 2 years after the publication of this novel. BUAV remains active to this day as a strong proponent for the ethical treatment of animals.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Awl Aboard!

Here's a topical post from this morning's The Awl.

Flipping through Mein Kampf in public takes some temerity, though I guess one might interpret the reader's interest as academic. I wonder if it's even possible to come up with a credible, intellectual-ish excuse for reading a trashy romance. Nothing springs to mind.

Spotted: The Natural Disorder of Things by Andrea Canobbio

Just how hard is it to spot "the natural disorder of things?" Piece of cake—especially when it comes to the MTA at rush hour.
Where: Q-train
Who was reading: A gray haired man wearing, among other things, a brown pair of sneakers.
How many of my coworkers own the exact same kind of sneakers? Two that I know of.
Coincidence? Not likely! Says coworker #1: "I was looking to buy a new pair of sneakers when I saw [coworker #2] with this cool pair. So I was like, 'Hey man, those are some sick shoes!' And he was like 'Thanks bro, I know, right?' And I was all, 'Are they waterproof? and he was like "You know it!' and we hi-fived. Afterwards, I made haste to procure a pair for myself."
Is that an actual quote or did you just make it up? Impertinent questions will be answered at the author's discretion in the Comments section following this post.
Back to the book: "Intelligently engrossing." writes the LA Times, "Comes to a breakneck, virtually cinematic conclusion that knots all the plot's threads into a convincing, though shockingly unexpected, dramatic conclusion, giving way to a reflection too bittersweetly true to reveal."
Not to get all meta . . . but I totally don't see that happening with this post. <frowning face>

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Double-Take: The Girl Who Played with Fire—spotted again!

Where: Q-train
Who was reading: A 60-70 year-old woman with Maria Von Trapp hair and a periwinkle cable-knit sweater.
Although she was within spitting-distance of the end, she stretched out every page like a delicious dessert you don't ever want to finish.
Me and my best friend did the exact same thing with pudding cups . . . when we used to go over to my Grandma's house after school (grad school, obviously). Whoever finished last would lord his/her remaining pudding over the other like a smug little tyrant. 
But doesn't this statement become inaccurate the moment you print/sell more books? Why yes it does, and given the rate at which these Stieg Larsson books are selling, the cover copy probably lost its veracity before this edition even hit the shelves. 
You hear that, Publishing Industry? This is why people are always accusing you of being shortsighted!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spotted: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Where: D.C. metro, Red line
Who was reading: A young woman in an overcoat and a teal scarf.
Did she look kind of like Kaki King , the virtuoso guitarist? A little bit! How did you know?
Lucky guess. Tell me about the book: So apparently it's the story of a dude just sort of tumbling around North America in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, just kind of going wherever the wind takes him. Tumble tumble.
It's actually more complicated than that: Okay, okay. Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky are involved somehow.
Could Trotsky look any more like an affected undergraduate in this picture? Ha ha! In Defense of Marxism? More like In Defense of Being a Tool.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spotted: Bad to the Bone (Disney's Doug: The Funnie Mysteries #6) by Daniel Campbell, Kimberly Campbell, and Ray DeSilva

Where: D-Train
Who was reading: A tween-age girl with elaborate rubberized headband. 
Product Description (via Amazon ): "One minute Roger is his usual nasty self, the next he's carrying Beebe's books and opening the door for Ms. Kristal. Can Doug find out what's going on?"
Unlike Doug, this "reader" may never find out. . . She was using the book as a hard-surface upon which to complete a word-search.
Bonus points: Library Book!

Dear valued reader

First of all, I must apologize for the lack of posts over the weekend. Life gets chaotic, you know? And moving apartments in the winter is almost always a bad idea. Anyway, from now on I'll only be posting during the week, except in emergencies—like if I see someone reading Anthony Trollope (swoon!). But between monday and friday you can still expect to see daily updates.

Second, a belated thank you to NPR's Monkeysee blog —particularly Linda Holmes of Morning Shots— for the lovely, lovely write-up of The Book Spy last week. Those who know my super-secret identity may also know that I'm a die-hard NPR fan. In fact, my clock radio is set to play two solid hours of WNYC every single morning. The fact that someone from an organization I admire so much would take notice of my fledgling blog made me feel like a total rock-star. So thank you Linda, thank you NPR and thank you readers. It's delightful to know that I'm not alone in my voyeuristic curiosity about what other people are reading.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fantasy Fridays: King of the Murgos by David Eddings

Where: D-train
Who was reading: A petite woman in a purple puffy coat and purple striped hat, she stood with her head bent over the book, as if in prayer.
If she were a fantasy character: She would be a quietly religious elf. Sort of like Simon in Lord of the Flies, only much elf-ier.
An international bestseller:  King of the Murgos is book II in the epically epic Malloreon series. The Malloreon books actually follow Eddings' Belgariad series in which an Arthur-esque young lad named Garion single-handedly defeats the evil God Torak. In Malloreon, a non-evil replacement God must be found. 
I'd apply for the position . . . if my current job didn't offer such excellent vacation time.
According to David Pomerico, Assistant Editor at Del Rey: "David Eddings' Pawn of Prophecy was the first novel I ever read, and he's the reason I'm doing what I do today." 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is it hot in here or is someone reading Firefighter's Doorstep Baby by Barbara McMahon?

Where: Q-train
Who was reading: A vertically challenged woman who was jacketed in leather and hatted in canvas.
In a Nutshell: Firefighter's Doorstep Baby chronicles the adventures of Cristiano, a flame-dousing hunk with an injury that's thrown him out of the action—but not for long. His lake-side convalescence takes a turn for the titillating when he meets sassy singleton Mariella and her infernally cute baby Dante.
Not to be confused with Firefighter's Doorstop Baby. . . in which a neglectful couple uses their baby to prop various doors open while they go at it.
Now on to the juicy stuff: "A loud smack of the Jet Ski on the water as it bounced over its own wake had her drawn again to the man. At this distance she could only see the dark hair and broad shoulders as he sat astride the machine. He seemed fearless as the engine roared louder and he went even faster. She could imagine herself flying along, the wind blowing all cares away." (Read more)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spotted: A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Where: A packed Q-train.
Who was reading: A woman in her 30s with messy brown hair tucked under a striped cap. Her long puffy coat resembled a sleeping bag.
She finished the book as we emerged from darkness  . . . to cross the Manhattan Bridge. Composing this post in my head, I thought I had it all figured out: she would complete the last page, then lower the book to gaze contemplatively out over the water, allowing the stirring final words to slowly sink in.
But thwarting all expectations! she instead flipped back to the beginning of the book, scanned the review quotes, and started in again on page one. That is dedication.
Confession: I read the entire last page over her shoulder, then gazed contemplatively out over the water as those stirring final words slowly sunk in. It gave me goose-bumps.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spotted: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Rock by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A balding man with a gently hooked nose in a long trench coat. A half-grimace kept tugging at his lips, but left unchecked it might well have metamorphosed into a genuine smile.
What part of the book was he reading? Part III: The Piss Factory. This, in my opinion, is an excellent part title. Parts from other books could learn a lot from it.
What is "The Piss Factory"? Originally, this refers to the factory where a young Patti Smith once inspected pipe as a summer job. She would later write a song about it, entitled, you guessed it, "Piss Factory." I suppose you'd have to read the book to figure out why this marked a significant moment in the history of punk rock. 
If you're in the mood for something lighter (but just as rockin')... you can't go wrong with Punk Rock Etiquette by Travis Nichols.

Monday, December 6, 2010

5332: A lengthy ramble on 2 people reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Where: Both on the R-train, traveling in opposite directions.
Bet that would sound WAY more poetic if you framed it as a nautical analogy: Good point. Perhaps the esteemed "Unknown" said it best when s/he wrote "There are those who pass like ships in the night, who meet for a moment, then sail out of sight."
Much better, now who was reading? Ship #1 was a young woman in a purple-and-yellow plaid skirt, with black tights and black everything else including a pair of clunky Amelie shoes. Ship #2 was a young man of the hipster persuasion, with an unseasonably bronzed face and light brown whiskers. Said whiskers were swaddled in a saffron-colored scarf and he carried a sack of art supplies.
How come none of this has anything to do with 2666? Pure oversight. But come to think of it I heard that book was good. Like really good.
Isn't it amazing... that Bolaño has been writing novels since the early '90s, and yet his work has only recently come into the limelight in this country? It makes me wonder how many great works of literature go unnoticed—or "sail out of sight"—simply because they're never translated into English.

Spotted: The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Gillebeau

Where: Q-train
Who was reading: A twenty-something guy with puffy hair and an even puffier coat.
According to the author: "My mission is to help people live unconventional lives, make their own choices, and change the world."
How "non-conformist" is this? A cursory Google search of each pillar of the author's mission statement produces the following results: 
  • "Live an unconventional life" = 36,100 hits
  • "Make your own choices" = 2,330,000 hits
  • "Change the world" = 5,550,000 hits

But ultimately, a picture speaks louder than 1,000 statistics 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spotted: Howard's End by E.M. Forster

Where: N-train
Who was reading: A snappy pink-shirted man (snicker) on his morning commute from Queens to Midtown.
What does Super-Critic Lionel Trilling have to say about this book? "[A] literary fact that is likely to influence our feelings about all of Forster's books, is that they are by the author of Howard's End. That is not to imply a denigration of the book or to suggest a significant difference in quality. But Howard's End is undoubtedly Forster's masterpiece."
But in my own humble opinion . . . A Room With a View is a more enjoyable read all around.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Aw shucks, Galleycat, you sure are swell

Thanks to Galleycat for the great write-up!

Also, for those interested in following The Book Spy on Twitter, it is now possible to do so @readandbeseen! I'm sure there is a better way to facilitate following—a button or gadget perhaps—but in case you hadn't noticed, my computer skills fall somewhere between dysfunctional and prenatal.

Spotted: The Disciplined Trader: Developing Winning Attitudes by Mark Douglas

Where: B-train
Who was reading: An ambitious-looking fellow in his early-to-mid twenties. He was positioned rather awkwardly in the middle seat, with his elbows tucked in politely.
But that’s not what the free market’s all about! It’s about elbowing your way to the top one bruised seat partner at a time. It’s about crushing the competition beneath the heel of a shoe that cost more than your classmates still owe in student loans. Heck, what was this guy even doing on the subway?
If I were him… I’d commute to work in a Zeppelin made of Fabergé eggs and powered by endangered flying squirrels.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Missed connection: girl reading The Hunger Games + boy reading Mockingjay

Where: Mere footsteps apart on the platform at Dekalb, totally oblivious to one another.
Who was reading: She wore a hot pink coat with a floppy gray hat, he a Castro hat and Carhardt hoodie.
Alas, it was not to be. He boarded the car behind her on the Q, and never again would the twain meet.
But whatever: He probably went on to land some hotshot gig in District 2, while she squandered her remaining days in Victor’s Village, listlessly sifting through the pieces of broken dreams.
And ultimately . . . If Katniss couldn’t have Gale then no one deserves to be happy.
Post Script: If this doesn't make sense, all I can say is read the books. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spotted: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Where: R-train
What’s that big gold circle on the cover? That’s the prestigious Newbery Medal.
Who was reading: A Park Slope dad-type in khaki pants and a wind-breaker. Little tags on his shoes shouted “GORE-TEX!”—but what part of a shoe could possibly be made out of Gore-tex, I ask you?
Peeking out from under a modest shelf of belly… Just a sliver of alpaca-wool belt could be seen. I started to snicker, but was quickly sobered by the realization that my own dad dresses just like this.
The reviews are right! Or at least School Library Journal was right in saying that, “Even high school and adult audiences will enjoy A Year Down Yonder.”
And even though it’s totally acceptable for adults to read children’s books… This guy was super-furtive, making it nearly impossible to figure out the title. He had his paperback copy folded back so that the covers touched, and although I kept twisting into odd positions to see better, the only thing I succeeded in doing was drawing plenty of weird looks from the teenager across the way. After many failed attempts, I copied down a sentence from the interior and used it to track down the title later.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spotted: Decoded by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter

Where: D.C. Metro, red line
Who was reading: A woman with a sensible haircut and an even more sensible gold earring. Presumably there were 2 earrings, but I only saw her in profile.
And what's the deal with that book? It's sort of a memoir and sort of a concordance of Jay-Z's lyrics, unpacking the wordplay, symbolism, and allusions to real-life events.
Do you have a favorite Jay-Z song? Probably D'Evils or Regrets, both from the album "Reasonable Doubt." Because they're both so sad, you know? I guess I'd give the edge to "Regrets"; it has a more interesting beat.

Spotted: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A middle-aged woman with a sweet-as-honey face framed by a tidy black bob and an argyle scarf in kelly-green and picture book pink.
And for footwear? She wore fluffy blue socks rolled over the tops of black sneakers.
Why does this book sound so familiar? Because it was advertised semi-constantly on NPR a few months ago.
But I thought the whole point of NPR was that it doesn't run ads .... Think again. It'll add an extra note of bitterness the next time you have to suffer through pledge drive.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spotted: The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille

Where: N-train
Who was reading: An elderly lady who spent most of the train ride contorting the pucker of her mouth around a hard candy.
But what kind of candy was it: Beats me, maybe butterscotch? Old people like butterscotch, don’t they? That stuff is tasty. . . . And no, that doesn’t make me an old biddy—if anything is speeding up my early onset biddy-fication it’s the fact that I take Metamucil.
According to PW (via Amazon ): "As a sardonic morality tale of one man's self-willed disintegration, the impact is flattened by its elitist narrator's patrician tones." Zing!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger

Where: R-train
Could that title be any longer? As a matter of fact, it could. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world's longest book title is 1433 characters (290 words) long and belongs to a 2007 book by David Ciliberti. The full title can be found here.
Who was reading: An elderly gentleman sitting up very straight, holding the book precisely at eye-level. He wore a black felt hat brimmed in brown leather and a pumpkin-colored shirt tucked into high-waisted slacks.
A lot of times . . . self help books seem just plain silly to me: think like a lady, act like a man, buy your inner child a pack of smokes and lose 10-15 pounds. But in this case, I legitimately hope the man I saw reading is able to stop walking on eggshells and take his life back.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spotted: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Where: N-train
Who was reading: An immaculately dressed woman with somewhat birdlike features reading a well-thumbed paperback.
Contrary to what Vogue would have you believe: feminine mystique has little or nothing to do with donning a pair of 1940s-inspired shorts.
Rather, it refers to: Friedan's hypothesis that patriarchal society values women solely for their contributions to home and family, and deprives them of the opportunity to find meaningful vocations outside of the home.
Widely credited with: sparking the contemporary women's movement.
#7 on . . .'s list of the 10 most harmful books.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Spotted: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Where: Red-line
Who was reading: A stylish African American woman dressed in all-khaki save for a pair of red patent leather heels and a shiny red alligator handbag.
Can shiny red alligators be found in the wild? Only in Communist countries.
If this book were a tour de force, what would it be equal in scope to? "the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon." (via the publisher)
Amazon-user Jenny calls this: "The Defining book of my 30th year." (read full review)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Tomes: The Holy Bible & The Girl Who Played with Fire

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A mustachioed, middle-aged man in brown trousers, green fleece and a blue raincoat.
From halos to hell-fires: He spent maybe 10 minutes with the bible and closer to 40 on the Stieg Larsson.
Peeking out from the Bible's pages were: Post-its and receipts. Is nothing sacred?
Besides which: he was totally leaning against the car door. You know, the one with the "Do not lean" sign? I guess he bows to a higher authority than the MTA.
But that's no excuse for the fact . . . that he slid open said door to toss a just-used Kleenex onto the tracks. Have our cultural expectations deteriorated so far that this is considered acceptable behavior? I cringe to ponder the answer.

Spotted: A black-and-white Harriet the Spy style notebook

Where: N-train
Who was Reading: An absurdly cute Chinese girl-child in a cherry-red toggle-coat, with swinging feet that didn’t nearly reach the floor. Odds that she was a modern-day Harriet were slim, however, since her Mom was reading over her shoulder.
But please, do go on about the notebook: It was a Mead Square Deal Composition Book in Black Marble.
Jennifer on says: "Great price, great product . . . Yes, I would recommend this to a friend."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spotted: First, Do No Harm by Lisa Belkin

Publishers Weekly sums it up: "a detailed account of the rigorous moral and ethical considerations given to decisions made in the cases of several patients at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Tex., in the mid to late 1980s."
Where: N-train
Who was reading: A woman with wavy black hair, chipped turquoise nail polish and purple-and-white Shape-Ups (ie. sneakers that make you lose weight) with non-ironic glittery purple laces.
Do so-called “fitness sneakers” actually make you more toned?  I couldn't say first-hand since this particular woman was wearing a modest derriere-concealing coat, but from what I’ve heard, no.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spotted: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Digital Reading Device: Kindle. Yes it is possible to see what people are reading on these things, you just have to be really rude.
Where: D-train
Who was Reading: Heavyset woman decked out in work-appropriate beige. Scarlet talons and a shiny leopard-print scarf suggested she would be just as comfortable in the jungle as the boardroom.
Bonus Points: Only one handbag.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spotted: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Where: R-train
Who was reading: A rumpled red-head in a rumpled coat.
Her copy of the book was looking:  Pretty beat up. As though it had survived monsoon season in Bali, been used as a napkin at a tomato-intensive Italian feast, and struggled to get over a nasty divorce, with, idunno, the dust jacket?
But actually: I'm guessing it was just dropped in the bath-tub.
THEN! within seconds of transferring trains, I saw someone reading a book with the eerily similar title: Women, Food & God.
Maybe Secretly . . . We're all reading the same book, only dressed up in different words. Spooky.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spotted: A Mysterious Manuscript

Where: Q-train
Single-sided pages or double? Single. Sorry Planet Earth.
Who was reading: A young woman wearing grandmotherly oval-shaped spectacles and a tote-bag that read "Pantheon Graphic Novels" in a four-panel spread with each word set–inexplicably—in its own dialogue bubble.
If I were a betting woman . . . I'd say she was an editor for Pantheon
What do I hope the manuscript was? Hmm. Something new by Jessica Abel would be nice.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spotted: Burned by P.C. Cast

Where: D-train
Who was reading: A girl in a giant white wool sweater cinched around the waist with a black belt—kind of resembled a marshmallow wrapped in twine.
Why would you wrap a marshmallow in twine? To affix it to a roasting stick without compromising the structural integrity of the marshmallow.
According to the author (via wikipedia): The concept for the book (and series) came from her agent, who suggested the theme "vampire finishing school." 
Was it a surprise that the reader got off at West 4th St.-NYU?  Not really. I heard NYU bases their course catalogs on the theme of vampire finishing school too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spotted: A Changed Man by Francine Prose

Who was reading: A slender woman with shorn brown hair topped by a swath of bleached blonde curtaining her face.
Publishers Weekly says: "Prose tests assumptions about class, hatred and the possibility of change in her latest novel, a good-natured satire of liberal pieties, the radical right and the fund-raising world. . . .  doesn't shy away from exposing the vanities and banalities behind the drive to do good."
Speaking of the vanities and banalities behind the drive to do good... Anyone know what PETA's been up to lately? Better grab your copy of "The Art of Cockfighting" now before those do-gooders spoil the party.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spotted: Deliver us from Evil by David Baldacci

Where: Delta flight no. 18 from Detroit to Laguardia
Who was reading: Dozing middle-aged man in first class wearing a "Bankrupt America? Yes We Can!" pin.
Did I confront him about his offensive political beliefs? Only in my head.

Spotted: Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Where: D.C. Metro, eastbound Orange line
Who was reading: A young woman with an enormous gym bag and exciting bangs. 
Which edition was it?  Paperback, the one with Elijah Wood and his blue-sky glasses on the cover—looks a heck of a lot like the vintage paperback of Kafka on the Shore. 
That's cool, I guess:  Yeah, but remember the hardcover version with the reversible black-and-white color scheme? Where the front and back were exact mirrors of each other, and the front even had a matching bar code? Remember reading that in high school and thinking it was the coolest thing ever? 
Can I remember any of my high school gym teachers' names? Not a single one. Is that weird?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spotted: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Where: R-train
Who was reading: Who isn't reading this book right now? But in this case it was a tall white guy (like alabaster white guy) with wispy bangs and a little fluff of moustache, or "fluff-stache" if you will.
New York Magazine on Freedom: "A work of total genius."
B.R. Myers on Freedom: "A 576-page monument to insignificance. . . . Jonathan Franzen’s juvenile prose creates a world in which nothing important can happen."
The Millions on B.R. Myers:Myers writes as if the purpose of criticism were to obliterate its object. . . . He offers us in place of insight only indigestion."
Holy Smokes, Bullwinkle, the critics have turned on each other!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spotted: When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith

From the Publisher: Are you letting your kids get away with murder? Are you allowing your mother-in-law to impose her will on you? Are you embarrassed by praise or crushed by criticism? Are you having trouble coping with people? Learn the answers in When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, the best-seller with revolutionary new techniques for getting your own way.
Where: N-train
Who was Reading:Wealthy looking woman with a high, highlighted ponytail and equally high arching eyebrows. Dressed in long khaki trousers that didn’t quite conceal white sneakers. A sassy pair of heels could be seen poking out of one of her (multiple) handbags.
Apropos of Nothing: Why is it necessary to carry so many damned handbags? I notice that these multi-baggers (or “bag-hags”) usually have one fancy leather one accompanied by however many cheap-looking cloth totes. Now I’ve never been a fan of handbags myself, far preferring the convenience of a simple messenger bag, but if the point of these glitzy leather creations is to look all spiffy when you venture out in public, don’t you defeat the purpose by loading yourself down with a bunch of dumpy satchels as well?