Monday 8 March 2010

Curious/Creepy: I'm not the creepiest person here, this time

Friends, I am currently somewhat sun-drunk, so this edition of Curious/Creepy could either be extra fun or very embarrassing. Sun-drunk: what happens when sickly book-sellers manage to crawl out of their batcaves and betake themselves to Kingston, where it happens to be super-sunny and warm enough to sit outside and bask, and sometimes to lie on parkbenches and bask regardless of the fear of being asked harshly to leave because someone official believes you're homeless. Sun-drunk. I am sleepy and warm and maybe slightly sun-burned and I am very content.

A train ride to my beloved Kingston this past Saturday is what led to this vitamin D binge. On the subway ride to the train station, I saw a lady who looked like she was doing the public transit ride of shame home (i.e., tall boots, well cut jacket, hair did, makeup, except everything was a little rumpled). Back when I used to do the walk of shame (when you are returning home on Saturday wearing the clothes you wore out on Friday, and you're hoping no one you saw last night will see you this morning, because...) I never had a book with me - it might get lost, and someone would have to die.

But she was curled up in her rumpledness over two seats absolutely engrossed in Georgette Heyer's Simon the Coldheart, which I hope is not a reflection on the person with whom she spent her evening of debauchery prior to the post-debauch, requisite journey of shame. More likely, she was imagining a time when one could debauch oneself in a dress with 15 crinolines and not wash for months at a time. We're so amateurish these days.

On the train, I spent the majority of my time very happily engaged with my first Balzac novel, Old Goriot. But you know me, I made time to peek over people's shoulders and drop things in the aisle so I could look up at people's books to read their covers. I also, of course, employed the professional book creep's secret weapon: pretending to go to the lousy, rank, infected train washroom in order to promiscuously look over 10s of people's shoulders in quick and reckless succession. This is an imprecise method for I always miss a few, but there is also always success.

In this case, the first book I saw was Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. I've met or encountered very few people who've managed to finish this book (I found it atrocious and never managed to get even past page 20 any of the three times I tried) but this youngin' (early 20s WASPy man) was in what looked like the home stretch, with fewer than 50 pages to go. So kudos to him.

The question is: was his ability to finish Rushdie's most notorious novel reflective of his zen-like commitment and imperturbability, or his righteously awful bad taste in literature? If I had quizzed him, would it have been the "Satanic" or the "Verses" he liked best? If the former, I would recommend him to read The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce for a more satisfying experience with more plot, and if the latter, I would recommend The House at Pooh Corner for the edification of his obviously imperiled, but not entirely lost, soul.

The second book I caught sight of in my superhero-esque swoop through the aisle was Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love - one of the usual suspects discussed in a recent post. I have not read this book. I am not sure, but I don't think the title is ironic and therefore I can't bring myself to read a book that tells me, in this day and age, earnestly to eat.

Laird, what does this woman think this world is, 1950/60s America when babes were babe-lier for being curvy (oh Marilyn!)? You evil tempter, Gilbert, this is the 21st century, where womens in their 30s are expected to wear jeans made by and for 10-year-olds on a strict diet of lettuce leaves, cigarettes, and laxatives. Elizabeth Gilbert clearly didn't watch the Oscars last night or she'd know that she's about to have some McCarthy-esque blackballing dropped on her probably totally fat (like size 4 (gasp!) ass). I think I've heard rumours that Sarah Jessica Parker is going to put out a fatwah on her too.

Closer to "home" on the train, the woman one row behind me and to my right was reading Qiu Xiaolong's The Mao Case, which is one of these Inspector Chen mysteries I've been thinking about trying. (Thoughts, from anyone who's read any of these?)

This woman was disregarding the stern commands of the almighty Skeletal Parker and mowing down on the biggest tin of mixed nuts the world's ever seen (well, the nuts in the tin, not the tin itself). She had more mixed nuts than a Christmas party in a Salvation Army church basement where the Boney M Christmas album is on and is turned up to 11. And she was eating them in a sort of frantic way which I recognize as the result not of either starvation or addictive eating, but as a sign of being at a part in the book in which Extremely Tense, Horrifying, and Awesome things happen and the only way to deal with the tension that doesn't involve either rocking back and forth or crying aloud is to stuff your face constantly. I recall doing this very thing with the Grand Inquisitor section of The Brothers Karamazov and most of The House at Pooh Corner.

Also, she may have been ensuring herself the utmost distraction from the Olympic mouth-breather/snorer who was sitting in the seat next to her. When 18-year-old skinny guys snore that much I can only suggest that they apply for a grant from the government now, because that shit is only going to get worse.

Nearby as well, I saw someone reading Peace Child by Don Richardson, and this is where the "more creepy than even Bookphilia" comes into the story. This white-haired lady was sitting in the seats in front of me and I had to lean in like Jack telling Olive Oil "HEEERREEE'S JOHNNNY" to see what she had on the read. I didn't say it out loud, don't worry. So, she was settled in with her read and I was settled in with my read when we stopped at Oshawa to let in more passengers.

Here's where the creepiness got turned up to 11. (And while this feature celebrates creepiness, I would have much preferred to have been able to choose listening to Boney M rather than note what follows.) First, I noted the subtitle of this book, which is this: Imagine Sharing the Gospel With a Tribe of Cannibals Who Admire Judas's Betrayal More Than Jesus' Sacrifice. To which should have been added a bevy of !!!!!!!!!!!!s and some photos of righteous white people looking SHOCKED and DISGUSTED. Creepy book, all of a sudden, and creepy of sweet Grandma lady for reading religious martyr-y porn-y stuff. Really, why can't we N. Americans restrict our racial paternalism to movies about white ladies saving young black men from lives of poverty?

But then, she was totally out-creepified by two of the new passengers. Seats on this trip were assigned, like on an aeroplane, and she must have read her ticket wrong for two late middle-age people, a pair of breeders who looked about as in love with each other as Philip Pullman with C.S. Lewis, came up to her and began with no hesitation to scream their fucking heads off at her for trying to steal their seats! They really left no time whatsoever for the woman to apologize or even check her ticket but glared at her like some Stepford children at an adult with brown hair and a desire to chose between chicken and fish on long-haul flights. So, the jungle heathen-hating reader was humiliated by the suburban heathens, oh lord, and forced to move two seats back and share a seat with a most likely sinnified young lady who is probably not married and has probably also at some point had sex (but didn't appear to be taking the train ride of shame home. That would be rough.).

The male half of this loving couple, it turns out, was reading James Patterson's The 8th Confession. He and his adoring wife spoke naught to each other at all between Oshawa and Kingston and that was a blessing for I felt a satanic temptation to goad them on to ever greater heights of rage and apoplexy to see if they'd explode in a blinding flash of light. Because they were quiet, I did not have to destroy them. Also, I'm a coward, so OMFG, thank goodness I didn't have to try to destroy them! I don't want to fiiiiiiighttt!!!!

And that concludes this edition of Curious/Creepy. I will be returning to the big city at an obscenely early hour on Wednesday morning, for I have to be at work for 11, and I doubt I will be sufficiently lucid to spy on anyone. I suspect I will only be able to stalk one thing that morning: delicious, evil, so delicious coffee.


Lesly said...

Welcome to Kingston! Currently the best coffee is to be had at Coffeeco at Johnson and Division - recommend stopping there to tank up before your trip home. VIA Rail coffee is pretty bad, as I'm sure you know.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine Sharing the Gospel With a Tribe of Cannibals Who Admire Judas's Betrayal More Than Jesus' Sacrifice"
Just tell them cannibals that some of us STILL eat the body of that Jaysus feller, 2000+ years later -- and it ain't in Jerky form. (Ohh, Communion Jerky! Might be the best title a Coupland wannabe could ask for!)

Eva said...

I read the first Inspector Chen book last was interesting, but whenever Chen's thoughts turned to women (which was frequently, since the victim was a woman!), I got incredibly irritated. I might read the second one at some point, just to see if it gets any less like 'Poor woman who didn't marry,' but I don't have a strong desire to.

Of course, take my opinion with a grain of salt, since I happen to love Rushdie! :p

Hannah Stoneham said...

Interesting collection of books you spotted - nothing like a bit of bibliostalking - I always think that the tube ios very good for that. I have never started the Satanic verses so can't comment but my husband enjoyed it...

Great post, thanks for sharing


Kevin said...

i love curious/creepy, i want you to know. walk of shame! i have to install new software to keep my idea of you current!

Heidenkind said...

Maybe the old lady was pro-Judas herself?

Bookphilia said...

Lesly: Why, thank you! I went to Coffeeco this afternoon because I won't have time tomorrow morning, and it was lovely. I will certainly visit it again the next time I'm here. And yes, VIA Rail coffee is horrendous but I will be its grateful servant tomorrow morning...

J.E.: I know someone who wrote an entire thesis on the cannibalism inherent in the sacrament! And Coupland: heh! Like.

Eva: I noticed something similar when I dipped briefly into the Inspector Chen book in my store...think I'll pass.

And I don't hate Rushdie per se; in fact, I think Shame is an amazing novel. I just found TSV to be unreadable.

Hannah: I know! I love the randomness of the things I see people reading. And I find that randomness doesn't diminish between posts of this kind.

Kevin: Having trouble computing? But you already knew that I contain multituds and contradict myself. ;)

heidenkind: That would be awesome. But she took her abuse with too much humility, I think, to support such an idea. :)

Anthony said...

Very funny post. Thank you. I enjoyed reading that. Your deviousness in discovering what other people are reading is educational.

Eva said...

Wasn't Shame amazing?! That was actually my first Rushdie. :) TSV wasn't my favourite, but there were parts that I really loved. Especially the mountain climber & her thoughts on relationships!

Bookphilia said...

Anthony: You're welcome. I try; or, perhaps more accurately, I don't restrain myself.

Eva: I never got to the mountain climber...ah well.

Everyone: I've finally fixed all my atrocious spelling errors, except for the ones that were intentional, of course.

Y S Lee said...

I adore the idea of containing "multiduds".

Bookphilia said...


Stefanie said...

Your book stalking was hilarious! I've been stalking on my daily short commuter train ride but I am an amateur compared to you. I will be on an airplane in two weeks and that is prime book stalking geography. Though I will have to be careful so as not to catch the attention of security or an air marshal. It's very lucky you didn't have to destroy those people though the light show would have been marvy :)

Bookphilia said...

Stefanie: I haven't had as much luck book stalking on airplanes as I have on trains and buses and the subway. Moving around on a plane is much creepier on a plane than in other vehicles. But stalking people in the boarding area before y'all get on the plane...that could work.