I’m not sure how I’ve missed Seen Reading for this long, but the idea immediately captivated me. The blog’s author observes someone reading something on Toronto public transportation, notes the page number, then chooses a passage from that page and adds her own small fictional hypothesis. A typical example is here (and no, she hasn’t spotted anyone reading Traffic — yet).
The New York City subways are typically awash in outward-facing jackets, and I’ve often thought there should be a special MTA Bestseller list (a lot of people will be reading The Secret with the proposed fare hikes) — heavy, I think, on Salinger, Foer, Lethem, etc.
I’ve often wondered about the role of signaling that these book jackets send; are they all always “honest signals”? I am thinking of a recent anecdote relayed by the novelist Nicholson Baker in the New York Times. “Years ago, he walked into a temporary job with a copy of “Ulysses.” “I wanted people to know I wasn’t just a temp,” he said, “but rather a temp who was reading ‘Ulysses.’ ” And what will happen to that signaling (pretentious perhaps, but also useful) once the individual book is subsumed under the faceless silicon hegemony of the Kindle — which itself is a kind of signal. How many subway romances have been struck up because someone fell for someone reading a certain novel — say The Crying of Lot 49? With Kindle you might take them for a Pynchonite, only to find they’re reading James Patterson.
In driving, of course, literary signifiers are usually lacking, unless someone happens to have some Conrad or Koontz up on the dashboard. There are often audio signifiers (of a certain sort, no one’s ever cranking NPR up and down the block), of course, not to mention things like car make and model, a gun rack in the back or other accessories. My favorite example is something I saw in the little retail section of my local car wash: A fake GPS antenna. You may not have the fancy nav system, but this little shark-fin shaped piece of plastic will convince the world you’re never lost.
This entry was posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009 at 8:41 am and is filed under Etc., Traffic Culture, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.