Sunday, 27 July 2008

Curious/Creepy: weekend train trip edition

I just got back from a lovely weekend in Kingston and spotted some interesting reading on both the going and return trips. I suppose I should say that "This edition of Curious/Creepy is brought to you by VIA Rail Canada!!!" (as opposed to the letter L). It's sort of true. But more importantly, I'm still spying on people absorbed in books.

What is the What by Dave Eggers. On the way to Kingston, I was trapped into my window seat when a young, zitty feller sat down next to me. He was sitting there rocking the whole doing-nothing-but-travelling thing that I don't get (I must be reading, dammit!) until he started talking to the woman next to him (i.e., within about five minutes of leaving Union Station).

He interrupted her reading to get her to tell him about her book and in short order had convinced her to give said book to him so he could read it! His power is a dangerous and terrifying one but my force field was up and I didn't feel compelled to give him my book. The book he so craftily seduced out of this woman's hands (his girlfriend, I assume, but if so why didn't they take me up on my offer to switch seats with one of them so they could sit together?) I soon discovered to be Dave Eggers' What is the What.

I haven't read anything by Dave Eggers and I'm unable to determine whether or not I should. My readerly friends have extreme and opposing views of his work and both factions insist that they know my reading tastes well enough to be sure that I'll agree with them. My page 40 tests have provided results that can only be described as inconclusive so for now, I'll stick with things I'm certain I want to read (or which I'm compelled to read because they've been gifted to me).

Anonymous Rex: A Detective Story by Eric Garcia. The beautiful irony of this book-being-read sighting is that the guy reading it (same train to Kingston as the Eggers-reader but sitting north-west of me) was holding it in such a way that all I could see at first of the title was Anon and then finally, and at best, Anonymous Re. I'd never heard of Eric Garcia before so couldn't fill in any blanks myself and some detective work of my own was required. The write-up on this book, however, makes me want to read it because it spoofs PI fiction and features dinosaurs that never did go extinct. Sounds like good times.

The reader of this book was a late-20s, spiky-haired, black metal t-shirt-wearing, pasty dude who I think started crushing on me a little when he noticed how much I was reading. Or when he noticed me staring intently at him. Either way.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I don't know anything about Ken Follett but he sounds like the kind of guy I should be able to say something about either in trivia games or when shouting answers at the TV when Jeopardy! is on. (Wiki-truthiness has just informed me that he is a British writer of historical fiction and thrillers.) I do know that Follett is very popular and this is definitely not the first time I've seen The Pillars of the Earth being clutched in some intense reader's paw. No, what's important here is how amazing the reader was.

The reader of this book was straight out of an 80s surfer film. Male, early 20s. Curly, longish, and definitely sun-kissed blond hair. Pink polo shirt. Tanned skin. Shorts from that dark, cave-like store the kidz like so much these days (Hollister?). Deck shoes without socks. (Wait - superficially, this sounds much like the guy reading the Anthony Kiedis book in my first edition of C/C, but believe me, they were worlds apart. Just wait for the kicker!). Wicked, evil aviator sunglasses.

This was the nasty, local, good-looking, popular guy in the 80s teen film who screwed with (and maybe had his thugs beat up) the sweet, shy, good, not-blonde new kid in town who's in love with said evil popular guy's hot, popular and nice but 1/2-inch deep girlfriend. But we know how it all turns out. 1/2-inch deep girl begins to access depths of her soul she didn't know she had because of new guy and while he suffers at blonde guy's hands, he ultimately gets the girl, popularity, and vindication from everyone else. Just seeing this reader made me want to go watch The Karate Kid and Some Kind of Wonderful.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. I caught this metaphorical fish on the way back to Toronto today and I didn't even have to try hard. I very briefly tore my eyes away from reading number9dream to notice that the dad-aged gentleman sitting in the seat ahead of me was reading this classic of speculative fiction by high fantasy guru John Stuart Mill.

Okay, okay, I'll be serious for a moment. 1) I haven't read this one and I don't plan to. Look at poor Mill's face - even he doesn't want to read it. 2) I'm not joking entirely when I call On Liberty fantasy - really, the individual's emancipation from the economic tyranny of the state isn't something that's been entirely achieved, now has it? Oh no, it hasn't. We could fight about it but then we'd end up in jails funded by our tax dollars. Check. Mate.

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