Saturday, 1 March 2014

Seen Reading by Julie Wilson

published 2012




Miss Popular


Watching her reflection in the television screen, she practices smoking, leaning heavy into the couch cushion. Her friends look silly when they try to light a cigarette, wincing as if on Fear Factor and asked to chew through a hundred-year-old egg. She doesn’t see the point if you’re not going to enjoy it. Which is not to say that she does. She’s looking for things to be remembered for after they’ve graduated, gotten soft, and had three children with men they met at their first jobs. As if, twenty years from now, they’ll gather for a girls’ weekend and the prettiest of them will note the curl of smoke escaping her lips, washing over her tongue like mist, and sigh, “You always were the cool one. And you haven’t changed a bit.”




READER

South Asian female, early 20s, with short brown bob, wearing white wool sweater underneath open blue peacoat, three charms hanging from a long golden chain around her neck.
Herzog
Saul Bellow
(Penguin, 2003)
P105


Love Noted

When she gets to page three, she’ll find a confession of love scribbled in the margin. Her heart will leap, even though she knows it wasn’t written by the man who gifted her the book; it was bought secondhand. It’s not his handwriting, but she’ll give in to the hope, just the same, because people don’t use words like those anymore, and how lovely would it be to imagine that he could be somewhere imagining her, standing on the subway platform, bouncing on the balls of her feet, having just turned to page three.


READER 
Caucasian female, late 20s, with long brown hair tied back in a neat ponytail, wearing purple broad-framed glasses, a long red wool coat, and a green-and-red flecked angora scarf. She uses a gift tag as her bookmark. 
The Whole Story and other stories
Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, 2003) 
p 1



observations: I sometimes wonder where this blog would be without the wonderful Sara O’Leary – loyal blog supporter and suggester of books. In this particular case she tweeted the picture, and I said ‘Oh I would love to find a book to go with this’ and about two minutes later she linked to Julie Wilson’s book. It’s not usually quite that easy.

Julie Wilson describes herself as a literary voyeur. She was inspired by the sight of people reading on public transport in her native Toronto, and started making notes of what they were reading and what they were wearing. She made regular blog-posts from these sightings, adding a micro-fiction to each, then chose 100 to ‘re-craft’ and turn into this book: they ‘sit alongside one another in short chapters of poetic prose, much in the same way strangers on transit sit alongside one another en route to their final destinations.’

Each piece in the book takes the form above – a paragraph or two of imagination, then a short description of the reader, the name of the book, and if possible the page number. (Each of the pieces above is the whole entry).

Sometimes it is possible to follow the line from book to entry, sometimes not. They are completely hypnotic, mesmerizing – once I started, I couldn’t stop reading them. They can be funny, touching, clever, surprising. I particularly loved the two above, and Simmer and Visitor. I also learned a couple of Canadian words: tuque for a kind of hat, poutine for chips/fries with gravy and cheese. And Julie can tell when people’s clothes are second-hand…

You can see Julie’s blog here, and read more about her book here .

Thanks again to Sara.

10 comments:

  1. Come and visit, Moira. I will buy you a poutine!
    This is a lovely post and I am happy to have made the introduction. Maybe my son is right and there is a bookshop in my future as I do love matching up readers and books. Anyway, glad to have found you and your blog as I do get such pleasure from your posts.

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    1. Thanks for this, Sara, and for the picture & recommendation, and for all your support. I love the idea of your running a bookshop with book-matching...

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  2. My son has anecdotes (not usually flattering) on fellow train and tube passengers he encounters on his 5 times weekly commute to London. I'm happy to hear them, but a bookful would be a stretch I think. Not for me thanks.

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    1. Maybe your son should write a book like this one...

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  3. Moira - Some of those stories really do sound awfully interesting! I have to admit I've thought of what it would be like to write a set of observations up like that. Little wonder too that you got interested in a post based on that picture. That got my attention too.

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    1. Staring at other people & making up stories is one of the consolations of public transport, I have always felt. So well done to Julie Wilson for making something so riveting from it.

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  4. I love the picture too - I'm downloading it for future use!

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    1. Isn't it lovely? I like the way it is obviously quite old, and Kindles may have come along, but there's something about getting lost in a book on the underground is basically the same.

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  5. My husband likes to caption pictures that he finds all over the web (usually humorously). At one time he had some calendars that had photos with dialog balloons for filling in. So I can understand the process behind this but not really get into the individual descriptions. Maybe I will come back to this in a different mood.

    Love the picture.

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    1. That's very creative of your husband - good captions do make me laugh, I like them.

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