For the last two years (wow! how time has flown) I have attempted to alleviate the horrors of the morning and then the return evening commutes with my attempts at devouring a different Penguin Classic ( & more often than I’d like also the very helpful explanatory notes) in record time as I’m gently buffeted between sniffing miserable commuters and shouty pissed up ruddy faced blokes on their way back from a jolly boys outing in the ‘Big City’. I’m being aided in this attempt by a friend who runs a small second hand bookshop, although in thinking about it I suppose it doesn’t hurt him if he can flog a few titles to me in the process.
Despite the distractions of early morning surly commuters and late night drunks catching the last train home I’ve now somehow managed to have worked my way through most of the Roman offerings in the guise of the histories and letters, I’m particularly quite fond of Seneca The Younger and his ‘Letters from a Stoic’ which pop with a witty modern feeling conversational style when taken from private correspondence. I’m now deep into the Greeks (f’narr-f’narr!) and attempting to wrestle with the weighty philosophical themes around death, the concept of the conscious and the soul presented in Plato’s dialogues of ‘Phaedo’… which granted hardly makes for an easy read on a crowded train journey of an hour and twenty minutes … or having to flick to the notes and back again.
I have noticed something rather sweet about being a ‘book reader’ on a train (when ‘book reader’ started being deserving of having quote marks around it marking it out as something different I’m not sure but it seems to be something which we all think is on the way out despite the fact everyone claims to love reading books) What I’ve picked up on is that if you’re sat happily reading an old fashioned printed book rather than reading from a kindle or mobile device then other bookworms start to congregate near you, making the effort to sit in the same space as you and some even make a bit of a show in retrieving their well read and loved ratty paperbacks from bags and pockets as if its a sign or a badge of belonging to some tribe: ‘here’s my book! See I’m one of you not one of ‘them’ with their screens and infernal finger swipes!’ sort of thing.
Often they also smile with a sort of friendly recognition but the most important thing here, the most wonderful thing they do to show a mutual understanding of book reading etiquette is they remain blissfully silent!
Maybe that’s the real reason other book readers choose to sit next to or across from other book readers, they’re guaranteed a little bit of peace rather than risking sitting next to someone who might look like they’re busily engaged in reading something on their mobile phone or tablet only in fact to be setting up some shitty music play list to play audibly via tinny headphones designed all the better to annoy people with.