Friday, December 05, 2008

Black and White and Read All Over

Today as I ate lunch at a local Subway -- uncomfortable because I had no newspaper at hand, as is my wont when eating alone -- I remembered a remarkable thing I'd noticed during my trip to New York: Everybody reads.

I've never been in such a literate city. Everyone, of all social classes, seemed to carry newspapers or books of one kind or other. We spent Thanksgiving morning not only watching the parade on TV, but passing sections of the Times and Post back and forth, and collectively working the crosswords.

It made me kind of giddy, all that reading in public.

I'm sure the pedestrian/mass-transit nature of travel in Gotham is one reason that the printed word seems to retain a healthy respect. But I wonder if there's also a different appreciation of information dissemination in general that we don't share in Greater Outer Podunk. If any students of rural sociology are reading this, here's some grist for study.

4 comments:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I like to shop alone, but then I may be stuck with the eat-alone situation. I usually have some book or magazine along, but then discover that I left it in the car. Dang.
Now I've put a small paperback in my bag.

But I wonder if people in smaller towns count more on interacting with the people they meet in public than do those in NY? Are they hiding behind the paper?

Ruth said...

Well, I definitely read more when I lived in New York. As you mentioned earlier..people live in tiny spaces in New York. Thus their living rooms are the local Barnes and Noble, the coffee shop, etc. Mine was Barnes and Noble. Every week or two I would pick up a new discount mass market paperback (fits right into a jacket pocket) for the subway and at home.

Traveling on the subway can be long, or crowded. It was nice to have a book in front of my face to focus on and keep me from being claustrophobic. SO, I'd say transit is a big part of it. I also didn't have money for things like cable...it goes to rent!...so books were good.

I'd say it's somewhat a culture thing too.

Joan of Quark said...

I think you're onto something with the public transport connection - London is like that too.

toujoursdan said...

Sadly, the rise of PSPs and iPod video players seems to be cutting into the book reading on subways with younger people. I am seeing more and more younger people watching movies or TV shows on their players than reading nowadays.

But the church I attend when I am there, which maybe has 30 people on a Sunday, has two well attended book clubs.