Jessica Gross

Reading Big Books on the Subway

In people watching on September 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged for the past few months. (I am a slow reader.) My copy of this book is about a foot tall and five pounds. At first, when I read it on the subway, I was embarrassed — what was I trying to do, prove something? “Hey, passengers! I bet you thought I was illiterate. But I’m not!” I tried to be inconspicuous by laying the book on my lap and hunching over it like a dying person.

But as the months passed, I grew proud of the feat I was accomplishing. Yeah, I was reading Ayn Rand! Check me out, subway! I started whipping it out while standing, right in other passengers’ faces. This was even better, because I was reading while balancing.

But I don’t just brag. I check out other people’s books, too, and judge them. Apparently, I’m not the only one — this is a common MTA pastime. But I still haven’t figured out exactly what book qualities make me judge a person smart or stupid. It’s not length — if a passenger is carrying a book I’ve seen on a television commercial, I scoff, no matter how much it weighs. It’s not whether it’s a “classic,” either: Harry Potter readers universally receive an A+. That reader loves magic!

It may be how similar their tastes are to mine. In which case I’m a narcissist. But then, would I be blogging if I weren’t?

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  1. I saw a guy walking near NYU the other day (a freshman, it looked to me, but perhaps I’m quick to judge) who was reading Atlas Shrugged WHILE WALKING! Seriously, I cannot fathom how he could possibly concentrate and absorb anything from the novel as he was looking up every few seconds to be sure he did not hit something. It seemed a little too extreme, individualist and self-important, even for my tastes.

  2. Too extreme, individualist and self important? why is that surprising? he WAS reading Ayn Rand after all 😛 (Going back to lurking before the few, the chosen, uber productive objectivists descend upon me screaming “moocher! moocher!”)

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