Shoshana Flax: An informal poll
From: Walk the Ridgepole
September 13, 2012 at 07:35PM
For any of you who tend to read while surrounded by strangers, i.e. on public transportation:
A) How often, if ever, do you get comments or questions from strangers about what you’re reading?
B) Would most of your reading material generally be categorized as adult, or as children’s and/or young adult? (Bonus question: Are you generally categorized as an adult, an adolescent, or a child?)
C) Do you have an e-reader?
I ask because it’s been brought to my attention that A is more dependent on B than I thought. (I’ve added C because I’m sure it plays a role, though I personally find that seeing an e-reader makes me curious about what someone’s reading.) In a bookstore and in many of the other book-centric environments where I’ve spent time, it’s not terribly unusual to jump into someone’s conversation about a book. So I didn’t think it was that strange when the passenger next to me remarked, in an ostensibly friendly way, on how few words The One and Only Ivan had per page. Another non-cover-based conversation about the open copy of Jake and Lily on my lap ended nonsensically with, “At least it’s not a bad Shakespeare novel” (huh?), but still, friendly. The guy who wondered if I thought the war-centered Dear Blue Sky was “too jejune” clearly had a chip on his shoulder, so I shrugged him off mine. There was also a Fourth of July encounter based more on the fact that I was reading, but even I’ll admit that that was a little unusual amidst that evening’s revelry. And The Diviners is noticeably huge.
But I mentioned one or two of these stories to a few friends–also very frequent readers, also women around my age–and the response was that they’ve never had a similar encounter, or that it’s happened once in five years in Boston. The above list of my own encounters comes from about the past six months. The only first-glance difference between the friends I questioned and myself? They primarily read adult books, and I’d say about eighty percent of my reading is kids’ and YA books.
I’m not sure what to take from this obviously anecdotal observation. Are people just reacting to the incongruity of an adult reading children’s books? Does my reading material make me seem more approachable? “Too jejune” guy aside, it hasn’t seemed like my fellow passengers were trying to make themselves feel superior, but were they?
In any case, I’d be curious to hear what others have experienced.