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Articles We Like: David Rakoff on Subway Reading

By Ed Nawotka

Writer David Rakoff offers a bagatelle about reading the November issue of GQ magazine. Titled “I Only Wear Jonathan Franzen,” he looks at the way in which people judge others by what they’re reading, particularly on the subway.

He breaks it down like this:

“It’s like pairing wines with food: You can break it down by subway line. The L train, which, Logan’s Run-like, will spew you out onto the tracks and grind your bones to dust under its wheels if your’e over 30…calls for Miranda July. The F, serving the Brooklyn homes of magazine professionals and their children named Anya, is powered by the Jonathans Franzen and Lethem. And for those deepest reaches of Queens served by the 7 train, entire neighborhoods lacking restaurants with artisanal charcuterie and the ironic use of taxidermy — and no one seems to mind! — only the minor-key, klezmer-inflected rhythms of Gary Shteyngart will do”

As for Manhattan, he writes, “What’s depressing is how scant is the real estate in the public consciousness seems to be,” noting the ubiquity of Eat, Pray, Love and books by Malcolm Gladwell and Stieg Larsson.

Of course, like any writer, he brings the piece back around to be a reflection on himself and fantasized whether or not he’ll ever spot someone sitting across from him on the subway reading one of his own books. His answer is, in the age of digital when everyone will soon be toting e-readers, it’s unlikely.

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