Friday, October 15, 2010

You Are What You Read in New York City

Nineteenth-century British author Anthony Trollope is one of my favorite writers. Since reading his most famous works (like "The Eustace Diamonds") several years ago, I've been going through the lesser known of his 47 novels. Since I know almost nothing about the plot of each individual book, I've pretty much been reserving his novels from the library in alphabetical order.

Then I came to "Rachel Ray."

The book was published in 1863, but the title obviously bears a resemblance to a certain Food Network star. I worried: Despite the alternate spelling, would people seeing me read this novel on the subway think I was reading a biography of Rachael Ray? And does it matter?

It does, but I know it shouldn't.

We subway-goers have very little on which to base an impression on one another. Shoes, coats and mode of commuting entertainment are basically all we have to go on. It's difficult not to judge, not to make up whole life stories. That guy with the volume of his iPod up way too high? A jerk. The woman asleep against the window? I'll bet she has two jobs and at least as many kids.

I try not to, but I must admit that I put some thought into what I read -- or at least how I read -- on the subway. When I decided to read the juvenile "Lemony Snicket" series, I kept them low in my lap so no one would think I was a lightweight. Same with "Rachel Ray."

But more than topic or title, one thing will always disqualify a book from being brought on the subway: weight. If it doesn't fit in my purse, it stays at home.

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