Monday, July 21, 2008

We Need More Subways

Where I'm from, we don't really have subways. Frankly, there are aspects of subways I can do without: hot underground stations, the smells, occasionally obnoxious people, weekend service disruptions. But being in a mass-transit city, having come from a car-enslaved one, I can safely say that people would be a lot different if we all rode subways or trains.

Mainly, I'm thinking the population as a whole would be more literate. Not everyone reads on the subway, of course, but quite a few people read books, newspapers, magazines. And certainly no one should be reading while driving, though that didn't stop one vespa-riding fella I saw from texting in italy, in the rain. I've already polished off a 500-pager simply from my time on public transportation alone (the Dark Tower book 6), and am mid-way through Huxley's "Brave New World," after many years of good intentions. Knowing that I have scheduled subway rides, I'm actually looking forward to getting through books that I might not sit myself down to read otherwise. When life gets busy, I'm sad to say that books become one of the first things to go--at least, books read for entertainment as opposed to art books and other titles for personal edification. I love reading on my days off, but if it gets down to a single day off a week, that day is usually entirely spent running errands and no reading gets done. And it's often been 6-day weeks the past few years.

I've actually started lining up reads and generally thinking about books more than I have in a few years. The final Dark Tower book is of course due to be read soon--I actually bought it upon release a few years ago to get the hardcover with the Whelan illustrations. However, now that I'm reading on the subway, the idea of lugging about a ~850 page hardcover beast is not appealing--the book was also left in CA while we moved around since then. So, I'll probably pick up a paperback and tear through it, then keep the hardcover for posterity and cool art. Of course the paperback is about 1,000 pages...that's lighter, right?

But before I get to that, I just discovered that Haruki Murakami has a memoir due to be released this month about 20+ years spent as a long-distance runner and triathlete, on the side while building up a writing career. I can identify with that (just substitute illustration for writing, and subtract a bunch of years, and that bit about triathlons). That he was a long-time runner is news to me, but I'm not a devoted fan or anything. I first read Murakami while in England. I'd never heard of him, but a bookshop had a table of his books with some fantastic cover design (sorry USA, they beat you). I've mentioned an interest in things Japanese before, and the plots on the back covers sounded interesting. I picked up "A Wild Sheep Chase" and read through it. In retrospect, the choice of book may have had a lot to do with the fact that we were living on a working family farm with sheep in our backyard, and so I became quite interested in a purely platonic way. Anyway, the book was a trip. I'm still not sure what to make of it, but it was terribly interesting and surreal. I gave it to a buddy to read, who found it interesting and surreal...but I don't think he finished it. So it was interesting to learn about the running memoir, and I intend to read it as I continue my training for my first marathon. Of course, it's in hardcover only for now...but then again, it's also only 200 pages, so I suppose it's manageable. I also endeavor to not read another of his fiction works until I can read it in Japanese (!!). This may be awhile. I'll let you know if I ever manage it. Assuming I'm still blogging. And live that long.

L: USA Edition R: UK Edition

So there you go, books read and a queue forming, all because of subways. The NYC book publishers are happy, but then, in this Brave New World, "Everybody's happy nowadays...."