This morning, I may have been travelling in the most intellectual and well-read commuter train ever. I challenge you, reader, to come up with an example where you’d see as many diverse and interesting book titles amidst an anonymous crowd going to work. (Walking through a librarian demonstration is not an allowed counter-example). As I walked along the crowded platform, I noticed a lot of people immersed in books, and after I managed to decipher the cover or title, I was deeply impressed by my fellow commuters’ choice of literature:
- Ken Follett, The Pillars of the earth
- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
- Patrick Suskind, Perfume: the history of a murderer
- Sophie Kinsella, Shopaholic Ties the Knot
- Dostoevsky, The Idiot
- James Ellroy (Title couldn’t be read)
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
- Lauren Weisberger, Chasing Harry Winston
- Stephan Zweig, Chess(and these are only the titles I could recognize!)
And all of them on one single train!! It helps (or not, depending where you were this morning) that the line was officially on strike (I’d never thought that I would be thankful for a transportation strike, but hey—it’s France, so I’d better get over it), that the previous train had been cancelled so that the number of passengers aboard was more than double the normal one.
Polite manners on crowded Parisian trains is to feign total oblivion of your fellow passengers, even if their hair, elbows, or worse, are directly in contact with your own, or if you are jerked and crushed into their shoulder blades by someone still hoping to get in the car. In that case, you may discreetly scoff (or swear, but just under your breath) and turn the page of the paperback you’re still carrying to read. A way to say: “F**ck you all, I’m reading!”
On the other hand, it’s totally bad manners to speak up, even to remark on an amazing book, or to ask if those books are interesting (though you might say something in the line of: “would you please move your handbag up an inch or two, so that I avoid being maimed by it before the next stop?” only if the pain is excruciating). But this morning, I almost wished I could create a reading group with the fellow readers from the 8.44 train on the L line!