Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Commuter's Library: Literary Pursuits on the F Train

The Manhattan-bound F train out of Brooklyn has been sucking lately. There's more delays than ever with severe overcrowding during rush hour, and best of all, if the proposed MTA fare hikes go through, we B'klyners - and all other NYC subway riders - may soon have to pay 25% more for our unlimited Metrocards, raising the monthly bill from $81 to a sickening $103.

Mother $%&#s!

But we F train commuters are trying to make the best of it. Those of us lucky enough to get seats (and those able to stand and balance a book without impaling other riders), often engage in a little literary escapism to make it through the daily drudgery. In addition to the staples of NYC transit: The New Yorker, The Bible, and the Twilight series (in that order), F train commuters indulge in a veritable cornucopia of literary pursuits, from the trashy to the classy.

Some of last week's riveting reads:

The Billionaire in Penthouse B
A rich, powerful loner, Gage fit the description of the man who may have information about the mysterious demise of Jacinda Endicott's sister. Which was why Jacinda had abandoned her old life and taken a job at Gage's penthouse as his live-in maid. By day, she snooped for clues about her employer; by night, she fought her fatal attraction to the sexy, secretive billionaire. Her heart told her Gage was innocent; her head warned her otherwise. Which would she listen to? (product description)

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Some of the 23 stories in Wallace's bold, uneven, bitterly satirical second collection seem bound for best-of-the-year anthologies. In the "interviews," that make up the title story, one man after another, speaking to a woman whose voice we never hear, reveals the pathetic creepin
ess of his romantic conquests and fantasies. These stories, at their best, show an erotic savagery and intellectual depth that will confound, fascinate and disturb the most unsuspecting reader as well as devoted fans. (Publishers Weekly)

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene as a family is stabbed to death, the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelli
ng. The sole survivor of the attack, an 18-month-old baby, escapes his crib and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody, and allow him to live in their tomb. (Heidi Broadhead)

How Soccer Explains the World
Foer, a New Republic editor, scores a game-winning goal with this analysis of the interchange between soccer and the new global economy. The subtitle is a bit misleading, though: he doesn't really use soccer to develop a theory; instead, he focuses on how examining soccer in different countries allows us to understand how international forces affect politics and l
ife around the globe. The book is full of colorful reporting, strong characters and insightful analysis. (Publishers Weekly)

The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan writes about how our food is grown -- what it is, in fact, that we are eating. The first section discusses industrial farming; the second, organic food, both as big business and on a small farm; and the third, what it is like to hunt and gather food for oneself. Each section culminates in a meal - a cheeseburger from McDonald's; roast chicken and vegetables from Whole Foods; grilled chicken and corn fr
om a sustainable farm; and, finally, a meal foraged from the wild. (Washington Post)

This debut novel traces Russian-Jewish Sasha Goldberg's screwball coming-of-age and search for her long-ago disappeared father. After Sasha is accepted into a local, cash-strapped art school in the gloomy Siberian town of Asbestos, she becomes pregnant and has a daughter, whom she is forced to leave behind to attend an art school in Moscow. Sasha begins scheming her way to America and
soon is on a plane to Phoenix, Ariz., as a 17-year-old mail-order bride. (Publishers Weekly)

The Pitchfork 500
Named the "best site for music criticism on the web" by The New York Times Magazine, has become the leading independent resource for music journalism, the place people turn to find out what's happening in new music. In The Pitchfork 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present, Pitchfork offers up their take on the 500 best songs of the past three decades.

The Secret Supper
Set in the late 15th century, the book revolves around a papal inquisitor's investigation into Leonardo da Vinci's alleged heresies. After receiving a series of cryptic messages from "the Soothsayer," who warns that "art can be employed as a weapon," the Secretariat of Keys of the Papal States dispatches Father Agostino Leyre on a twofold mission to Milan: identify the Soothsayer and discover what, if any, messages da Vinci is hiding in the painting. (Publishers Weekly)

The story concerns a group called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill and discredit them. Moore's characterization is as sophisticated as any novel's as he investigates issues of power and control, propelling the comic genre forward and making "adult" comics a reality. The intelligent social and political commentary, the structure of the story itself, the fine pace of the writing, and its humanity mean that Watchmen keeps its crown as the best the genre has yet produced. (Mark Thwaite)

The Wordy Shipmates
Essayist and public radio regular Vowell revisits America's Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country's present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing and tender. (Publishers Weekly)

No comments: