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 . . . HumanEvents.com'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 DiscountOfficeItems.com 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?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spotted: I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne

Where: R-train
Who was reading: 20-something blonde woman in a sweater dress striped black and yellow like a bumblebee. The upper portion of her hair was pulled back as if to streamline the trajectory of nose to book.
Random Amazon Customer Says: “The book was highly enjoyable except when it got to all the insane and childish bull he [Ozzy] did, and probably still does.”
Which begs the question . . . What else could this book possibly contain?

Spotted: Wearing My Halo Tilted by Stephanie Perry Moore

Where: D.C. Metro, westbound Red line

Who was reading: A young woman with glasses, a hat, and an arrestingly serene expression

What did the hat look like? Zigzag bands of color in the following pattern: cream, wine-red, black, corkboard-gray, slate-blue

If this hat were a snake: Red touches black, so it would not be poisonous.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spotted: A Crumpled AM New York

How Crumpled?: so crumpled it appeared to have been snatched from the unwilling hands of a dying samurai.
Cover Graphic: Regular-sized subway cars emerging from a giant i-phone (or miniature subway cars emerging from a regular-sized i-phone).
Where: N-train
Who was Reading:
A tall 30-year-old man with bloodshot meth-eyes and multi-day stubble. His severe brow and wild curls brought to mind Poseidon, the Sea God, but he dressed more like he was from LA.

Spotted: Shadow Country by Peter Mathiessen

Name one National Award this book won:
The National Book Award
Where: R-train
Who was reading:
Guy in hipster-glasses accompanied by decidedly un-hip square-toed shoes and a close-shorn haircut. Apparently he had better things to think about than fashion, however, since he had already made it to page 717.

Spotted: Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

First Sentence: "Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third."
Where: Manhattan-bound N-train
Who was Reading:
A 20-ish young woman with soft black hair and a warm olive complexion. She wore a fuzzy blue, plaid coat and a peaceful expression that made me take a “second glance.” “What’s her secret?” I found myself wondering as I picked at a ragged cuticle…