On the Tube

Reading recommendations from a drunkard

Evidently having niche reading tastes facilitates social interaction on the Tube. Yesterday another ‘book thing’ happened to me as I made my way back from a lovely evening of girl talk, meatballs and Pleasing Caroline (a far-too-drinkable cocktail of vodka, gin, lemon, sugar, ginger and egg white).

Ten feet away from the southbound Victoria Line platform, a man sidled up to me. Bleary-eyed and a bit unsteady on his feet, I feared the worst: a slurred come-on, me attempting to politely give him the slip, and him not taking/ taking but disregarding the hint.

But instead of being met with a zingy one-liner like “Alright love?” or something ghastly involving angels and falling from heaven, he asked, “Escape from Camp 14… what kinda book is that?”

“It’s about a North Korean prison camp,” I replied curtly, unsure of where he was going with this.

Pause. “Have you read The Alienist? It’s really good.” And with that, we parted ways as he headed off to the northbound platform, on course to hit the wall of the ‘no entry’ tunnel but swerving at the right time and narrowly missing. He was, after all, very pissed.

Wikipedia tells me that The Alienist by Caleb Carr is a crime novel set in NYC in 1896, with Teddy Roosevelt as the protagonist. In his pre-Presidential role as police commissioner, he must investigate the messy murder of a teen immigrant. The story has huge sociopolitical overtones, as Roosevelt must deal with various anti-immigrant interest groups (the Catholic Church, Episcopal Church, J.P. Morgan and a corrupt police force) to crack the case. It does sound like it could be really good.

Thank you for the recommendation, drunken man with seemingly good taste in books. And if anyone happens to stumble across an intoxicated character clutching The Alienist over the next few evenings, fear not.

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