Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mass transit and the old, wild, west--

I traveled West to ski with some family a few weeks ago and got to partake in one of my favorite pastimes-checking out what people are reading on the planes and in the airport. And, more recently, I've been taking the light-rail and bus to work due to some serious snow. Again, I've been scanning the aisles. I have nothing illuminating to say about the current state of e-readers versus paper books. But I did have some fun and here is my microcosm.

Magazines, as always I think, rule on the airplane. I got to read some Vanity Fair which included a nice story on the making and life after of Thelma and Louise plus a feature on Mark Wahlberg and his ongoing golden touch with HBO series development. My uncle dug into a Dan Brown book because he couldn't find any Louis L'Amour he hadn't read. Several others around me were reading Michael Lewis, Alice Munro and the ubiquitous Stieg Larsson(hey, somebody should try and find the next Icelandic/Swede/Finn/Norse thriller. Sorry, couldn't help it).

The train/bus scenario is a little different as people, most anyhow, are reading quick-hitters like mystery, romance, sci-fi or newspapers. And there are the sleepers, the texters and the talkers(to themselves or whomever else will listen). As you near the Univ. of MN it gets more academic with Chomsky and various theory books. Textbooks of all stripes mixed with some Palahniuk and, yes even still, God Bless Kurt Vonnegut. I saw a copy of "I Got a Job!" and a woman reading the Koran. "The Passage" and Stephen King. Lots of things I couldn't recognize. And me, reading Jane Leavy's bio of Sandy Koufax.

But the highlight? The thing I saw which gladenned me and gave me hope despite it all was the woman in seat 19A on the flight from Denver to Minneapolis. She was on page 380 or 381 of Wallace Stegner's fine "Angle of Repose". This novel that starts, "Now I believe they will leave me alone." So I did leave her to her reading. I didn't poke my head around the corner and say, "Great book." or ask to become her friend. That would have been a little much. I simply returned to Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" and smiled big.

Looking for pictures of Mr. Stegner I found a great collection here including the one where he looks like an old-school soda jerk. The one I'm including in this post is also a classic. That, folks, is one reason why he was oft-known as 'The Dean of Western Writers.'

Plus, he's originally from Lake Mills, Iowa so we can claim his as a Midwesterner.


  1. Oh, I love Angle of Repose! I re-read it every few years and always get more out of it with each reading.