A book a week. For pleasure. Was an idea the University of Chicago had all but beaten out of me by the time I graduated—using Wealth of Nations and the Peloponnesian Wars, thousand-page tomes which, I can say with the certainty of someone who lives clumsily and dangerously, hurt on impact.
But I did it! For the first time in years. I have my new A-train subway commute to thank.
In Chicago we have this little thing called network coverage on all of our subway trains, even underground. This means I could conduct a phone interview for work while riding the Red Line north to Lake View, or catch up with my parents. Maybe New York City has yet to hear about this exciting invention, or is too cheap to pay for it, or its citizens really love that feeling of being trapped underground, pushing against 60-some of your closest neighbors, minutes after fleeing equally cramped apartments, with no one to call or text in distress.
But now I’m wondering if we Chicagoans just haven’t caught up with the New Yorkers, who cleverly realize that the sensory-deprivation tank of a subway car (noise-canceling headphones? Check. Breathing through mouth instead of nose? Done.) might be an ideal place to get some reading done.
Relax, the squeaking car rails say. I’m taking you where you need to go (with maybe 1 or 5 delays), so it’s okay to lean back and give yourself a neck cramp with that 500-page novel. Or straddle a pole in the middle of the car, juggling backpacks and lunch-bags and trying not to bump the crotches and buttocks besides you.
Last week I was reading a collection of essays by folk-rock musician Alina Simone, called You Must Go and Win. I bought it after reading her clever essay on a historic NYC boat tour. This week will be Peter Hessler’s River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze —one of only four books I brought with me to NYC, in anticipation of having no time outside of classes at Columbia to read. I’m wondering what else would make appropriate subway reading (criteria include: paperback, lightweight, with a cover that could potential be soiled and still look the same).