Techniques for Reading on the Subway


This post is going up in commemoration of the book I read for work last night and this morning. Check out the On Reading tag for more of the same. The book I read for work, while I won’t reveal the title or author because it hasn’t been published yet, had a really involved, contrived setup that forecasted everything that was going to happen in the plot, to the point where I was like, “Get on with it already, since I already know how this is going to play out.” Good characters, though. After I write my coverage I plan to finish & blog about Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.

I have a 45-minute subway commute in the morning, with one transfer after 2 stops. As soon as I hit the subway platform to wait for the train, my book comes out. Because I’m going to work at the same time as a zillion other people, the train, when it finally arrives, is packed. But the lack of a seat doesn’t stop the Superfast Reader, my friends. Best position for reading is while leaning against a pole or, better still, the door at the front end that leads to the conductor’s booth (an empty one, of course). Next best is to snag an overhead handhold on the horizontal pole, then I pull my bag across my body and use it to prop up the arm which holds the book. I turn the pages very quickly, and hope I don’t lose my balance. A dismal third is when I have to reach out sideways to grab a vertical pole, because my pole-holding hand has farther to go to turn the page, and often if I’m in this position that means it’s too crowded for those kind of sudden movies so I have to wangle a page turn with the same hand that holds the book. Not even I can do that quickly. If it’s really, really, really crowded, to the point that I can’t get a handhold, I let the crowd hold me up, take a wide stance, and read away.

The next section on my shelf is devoted to Canadian novelist, poet, and short story author Margaret Atwood. I am missing my favorite Atwood–Cat’s Eye–but have several more of hers.

The Handmaid’s Tale: A Novelis Atwood’s most famous book, a dystopian science fiction thriller set in a world with a fertility-based caste system for women. Oryx and Crake, a more recent sci-fi attempt from Atwood, was less successful in my opinion. She has a tendency to be didactic–and her ideas are radical, even frighteningly imaginable–and in Oryx and Crake she just didn’t weave enough of an emotional spell.

I have no memory of Bodily Harm or The Edible Womanor Lady Oracle, all of which I read (and remember loving) back in college.

I have hardcovers of Alias Grace: A Noveland The Robber Bride, which is probably my second-favorite Atwood. I am fascinated by the pathology of female friendships and this book and Cat’s Eye have subtle and complex takes on the subject.

Last Atwood in my permanent collection is The Blind Assassin: A Novel, a beautiful, haunting novel within a novel.

I feel an Atwood re-reading session coming on. She’s a very divisive author, seems to me–what are your opinions on her? If you’re a fan, which of her books do you keep coming back to and why?

(Also, I can’t figure out why sometimes I get those stupid spaces when I use links built in Associates–would welcome any tips on getting rid of them. Which reminds me–if you click a link to a book & buy that book, I get a small cut. I promise to spend it on books.)


3 Responses to “Techniques for Reading on the Subway”

  1. 1 wesleydumont

    That woman in the filmed version of A Handmaid’s Tale was attractive. Don’t touch your face after holding onto the poles in subways. Use Purell. Make sure you aren’t in a position that, if you should fall during the subway ride, that you’ll land on a child.
    Those are my thoughts. Happy Holidays. Don’t eat too much fudge.

  2. When I have to stand on the train I read just in the hope that someone will feel sorry for me and give up their seat. ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. I totally do the same thing… it’s like, “can’t you see I’m reading & need a seat? You can’t possibly need it more than me, even if you are 7 months pregnant and carrying a heavy box.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

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