An editor I know at the Wall Street Journal sent me this link from Underground New York Public Library, a website of photographs of people reading books on the New York subway. She sent it to me because there was a picture of someone reading my novel, State of Wonder, but that’s not the point. The point is that these are utterly mesmerizing photos of people from all walks of life being mesmerized by books. I cannot stop looking at them. I go back again and again and marvel at the intimacy people have with books, the private world they manage to create when they’re packed into a metal tube rumbling beneath ground. And the photographs are so beautiful, and the books people are reading are so much better than the books you might imagine people are reading in the subway. I was inspired on every level. I want to read those books! I want to write more books!
Since the New York subway system is still closed for business and full of water from what was Hurricane Sandy, I thought it would be a good time to post this. I hope you’ll forward it on to people because in these days of downloading books onto phones, it seems like an act of intellectual generosity to let other people see what you’re reading.
If someone took my picture on the subway reading a book, I would hope they’d catch me reading Old Filth, by Jane Gardam. Three different people I love and admire all said to me in one week, “What do you mean you’ve never read Old Filth?” It’s not a new book so I regarded this as a coincidence that deserved attention. I bought a copy and put it at the top of my stack. It’s now at the top of my stack of all-time best loved novels. I am giving it to everyone I know, because everyone who reads it thinks I’m a genius for having found such an extraordinary book. Old Filth (an acronym for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) is a very old Englishman whom everyone assumes has had a very dull life. Boy, were they wrong. This is an extraordinary novel.
Please come by the store and see our bigger and better children’s section. We’ve got so much going on these days that Parnassus has become a whirlwind of happy activity. The part-time store dogs, Lexington and Sparky, are keeping busy showing people where the books are. They’d love to see you.
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