By Jason Diamond

The other day, Huffington Post writer Stephanie Harnett asked the question:

When was the last time you saw Mark Twain on the Q train? Or Faulkner on the F?

As somebody who takes both the Q and the F on a daily basis, I decided to go ahead and look into this, because according to Ms. Harnett:

Great literature has lost out to throw-away tabloid news on the subways.

My results were culled from one AM ride on the F out of Brooklyn, then an F ride back to Brooklyn two hours later (still considered rush hour); a mid-afternoon ride on the G train from 4th and 9th to Lorimer; and finally, the G back to Park Slope later that night. What I saw on those four trains were (not including me finishing Moby Dick) 2 people reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, 1 person reading Balzac, 1 reading Mailer, 1 reading The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, 2 people reading books in Polish and (I think) Chinese (maybe great literature? I’ll never know), and one person reading a pretty new looking copy of Franny and Zooey. In four train rides, I think it’s fair to say that there was a fair amount of “great literature” being read.

While I know the focus on the article was on Choose What You Read NY, I can’t help but feeling that opening sentence was somewhat of a knock against me and my fellow citizens of Gotham. I agree that the amount of crap rags being read on the train is pretty staggering, but I’m not so sure this is new news (pun maybe intended). New Yorkers have spent decades trying to fill the time underground trying to ignore the fact that they were stuck in the middle of a speeding box filled with a few dozen other people, and sometimes it’s just not that easy to concentrate on the book you are currently reading.

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