A truism, for sure: Keith Richards is for the subway. Words, more than music – his music can double outdoors. But anecdotal recall? Clipped quips and hot prose? Life? Well, them’s the makings of cement, damp and smell. I read Life across a screen, having purchased a chip of a file for my e-reader. But recently, I found myself dithering between two titles to accompany a social commute: an Edith Wharton and Keith. Huh. The Wharton title I can’t recall, but it’s the one whose main character is a perfectly brilliant little self-obsessed villain, which, argue many, is a sub-definition of rock-and-roll. Undine: that, yes, is said monster, and not the name of Keith’s mother . Undine wants big and bad to splash into NYC aristocracy, judging and hating and conniving all the way. She also spends lots and lots and lots of money and rarely sits still. So far, that’s not really Keith. But that is rock-and-roll. Don’t even think otherwise, punk.
Reading material is an important component of every commute. The decision is based on weight, content and agenda. Life has been good for weekends. On weekends, on the NYC F line, people mostly ride in groups, pairs at the very least. Any pairs spotted during the week are usually parent-child, with student clusters to add spice (excluding the class outings, which always mean a calling instructor and a lower maturity level of the group). Weekend pairs unite for fun and pleasure, though some have an obligatory air. By and large it’s a mixture of the two: I’m glad to be with you, but I wish we weren’t going to your mother’s. This is exactly how I feel about Life: at 43% complete, I’m ready to shut it down, if it weren’t for the juicy bits I know are coming. (At 43%, we’re in 1969. Not even at Altamont.) So there’s a pleasure/reluctance in Life that mates well with weekend travelers. Weekday commuter reading must align with its customary resentments, tight clothing and fixed grims. In other words, the New York Times.
I read the Wharton, actually, before bed. My. No wonder I wake up with my fists clenched.