01.06.12: the dirty dozen {mystery train, round III}

december's installment of mystery train ended yesterday in a grand-guignol tide of merciless identifications, probably because i've been bellowing about how i can't post a new list until the previous one's readers have been matched up with titles (even though the list before it still has four orphans). let's bring bookish back in 2012 and get cracking again without delay, shall we?

here are twelve subway riders and the books they were reading when i started taking creepy notes on them. who got his or her hands on an advance reader copy of catherine chung's first novel? might the argentina enthusiast be someone i'd like to travel with on my way down to antarctica?* is there something buried in our dna which compels us to use airplane tickets as bookmarks?** can we talk about how amazing it is that someone's reading mercedes lackey in the twenty-first century? as before, if you correctly pair a book with its reader, i'll update the lists. tip of the hat, as always, to coverspy - and may the odds be ever in your favor.

[final update: as of 01.10.12, no riders remain! well done, internets; i'll begin my creeping anew on the morrow. see below for the correct pairings.]

{the peeps}

01 F, early 20s, curly, layered blonde hair, high-collared, draped black coat, black skirt, black tights, black spike-heeled booties, crossed legs, gold-studded black hobo in lap, sniffling, D train [catching fire, suzanne collins - jacob's first mercy killing]

02 F, 20s, long, thick black hair twisted back at temples, long eyelashes, thick mauve scarf, long black puffer with grey-faux-fur-trimed hood, narrow, pointy-toed, high-heeled, black mary janes, R train [a clash of kings, george r. r. martin - rob, hunting witches]

03 F, late 20s, freckles, golden-red hair in short, neat ponytail, long camel coat, pink-and-aqua scarf with gold threads, dark brown shell, long gold necklace, rust-colored leather bag on shoulder, jeans, caramel moccasins, F train [straphanger: saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile, taras grescoe - rob 2: electric boogaloo]

04 F, early 50s, thick, straightened blonde hair, half-rim tortoiseshell glasses, coral lipstick, black anorak with gold zippers and buttons, black prada shoulder bag, black riding boots over black leggings, B train [eyewitness argentina (dk eyewitness travel guides) - MDF spotted the well-heeled traveler]

05 F, early 30s, snowflake manicure, stick-straight, center-parted, chin-length, dyed red hair, red hooded pea coat, grey tights, black ballet flats with snakeskin bows, linda the bra lady bag, F train [wives and daughters, elizabeth gaskell - rob identifies casa de kidchamp's nod to #boobsweek]

06 M, early 40s, hair swept up and back from brow, full cheeks, half-frame glasses with upturned corners, thick brown leather jacket, green boot-cut sweatpants, blue converse all-stars, blue case logic satchel in lap, D train [arrows of the queen, mercedes lackey - george, like talia, is an empath]

07 F, 60s, thin-brimmed black hat lined with black faux shearling, curly steel grey hair, wire-rimmed reading glasses, royal blue barn coat, black gloves, tapestry cross-body bag, heavy black hiking boots, grey flared trousers, C train [a fine balance, rohinton mistry - maggie lands a hit from the southern hemisphere]

08 M, 40s, stout, artfully mussed hair, beard with white streaks, black pea coat over dusty blue fisherman's sweater, bright red vans, two black duffels between feet, F train [the sixth man, david baldacci - MDF spied the baldacci enthusiast's artful muss]

09 F, early 20s, brown bangs, black hood up and clutched below chin, knitted olive scarf looped around under hood, black manicure, pigeon-toed black combat boots over black leggings, F train [miss peregrine's home for peculiar children, ransom riggs - MDF, neighborhood goth watch]

10 F, late 40s, short hair, rectangular purple reading glasses, intricate, dangly silver earrings, deep purple turtleneck, large gold rings on every finger but her thumbs, long-tasseled black scarf, black coat, black slacks, penguin classics tote hung on knees, F train [the girl from foreign: a memoir, sadia shepard - george: the revenge]

11 F, early 20s, zaftig, cable-knit black cap over long, straightened dark brown hair, raisin-tinted lipstick, black slouch boots over indigo jeggings, grey leather crossbody bag, D train [extremely loud and incredibly close, jonathan safran foer - suspected by jacob, scorner of suspect editions]

12 M, late 20s, thinning, close-cropped hair with widow's peak, thick eyebrows, neatly trimmed moustache and beard, brown waxed-canvas coat with luxe orange plaid lining, black-and-white pony sneakers, bright purple backpack between feet, boarding pass as bookmark, F train [forgotten country, catherine chung - jacob's second mercy killing]

{the books}

a fine balance, rohinton mistry
miss peregrine's home for peculiar children, ransom riggs
extremely loud and incredibly close, jonathan safran foer
wives and daughters, elizabeth gaskell
the sixth man, david baldacci
straphanger: saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile, taras grescoe
arrows of the queen, mercedes lackey
the girl from foreign: a memoir, sadia shepard
forgotten country, catherine chung
catching fire, suzanne collins
a clash of kings, george r. r. martin
eyewitness argentina (dk eyewitness travel guides)

*fun fact: if you head for antarctica via argentina, you don't need a yellow fever vaccination.

**i dog-ear books, both at the top corners (to mark my place) and at the bottom corners (to designate pages i want to revisit for THUNDERTOME). some pages are scored thrice and end up looking mangled, but they are mangled with love.


Rob S. Parham said...

3 = Catching Fire

rachel (heart of light) said...

I'm the worst at these. I'll try to come back to it if I find the mental power. 

Part of the dogear club here. I have the same system as you. My theory is that a pristine book is an UNLOVED book. Incidentally, my mom will cut anyone who dogears the corners of her books. Makes borrowing very difficult. 

kidchamp said...

rob: bzzt! 

rachel, i've started doing it to hardcover editions(!) of books i know i'll treasure someday(!!). i hope posterity understands. 

Lisa said...

#2 was reading Foer?

_M_D_F_ said...

1: grescoe-concerned about it. 2: collins-would like to watch Jennifer Lawrence kill. 3: lackey-crushing on Little John. 4: dk eyewitness-real ominous-sounding guides... 5: foer-Tom Hanks super-fan. (No other explanation.) 6: martin-okay the sweatpants. 7: gaskell-L.I.L.F. (Lady I'd Like to hi-Five). 8: baldacci-his Delillo. 9: riggs-hopes her twitter pics will inspire book in 2111. 10: chung-read author's website bio and found it actually quite charming. 11: shepard-okay the jeggings. 12: mistry-thinning widow's peak: harsh!

kidchamp said...


kidchamp said...

solid hits! correct on 04, close on 06, correct on 08, correct on 09 (she totally caught me spying on her). on 12, listen, i loved his hair; the precision of his manscaping dictated the description. in retrospect i should've high-fived the gaskell reader.

Maggie said...

Foer-12; Gaskell-10; Martin-11 (are jeggings close to sweatpants?); Mistry-7; Grescoe-6 (on the hypothesis that men are more like to read nonfiction)

kidchamp said...

jeggings share dna with sweatpants, maggie, though the former compress and reveal what the latter obscure; my hint was about the text rather than the trousers, though. while i think i'd agree that men are more likely to be reading nonfiction, that one wasn't. yes to 07 / mistry! (how's australia?)

g said...


kidchamp said...

yes to 06 / lackey (oh god i loved that series in fifth/sixth grade; i want to come down with the chickenpox and re-read it right now) and 10 / shepard! i'm getting the feeling foer's gonna be the stumper.

jacob said...

i'm going to say #11 is foer, and that it's a movie-tie-in edition (which, by the way, are the only editions one is allowed to dog-ear, since they're not real books [sniff]).

kidchamp said...

it was totally one of the hand editions! otherwise you're right, and right about the not-real-books part (there should be a compound german word for the feeling of despair one gets when the title one requires is only available at one's bookstore of choice in an oprah edition). 

jacob said...

#12 was reading grescoe (btw, grescoe's bottomfeeder was a well done expose on seafood and aquaculture, though at the end he can't quite bring himself to foreswear eating seafood).

i'm going to say the gaskell was a college assignment, so i'll go with reader #1. the chung is a popular book club choice (e.g., megan's) so i'll assign that to the lady in her 30s (#5). oh, i don't know, #3 for collins and #1 for martin.

Naurnie said...

#3 - Wives + Daughters

Rob S. Parham said...


kidchamp said...

@jacob, @Naurnie: misses all 'round! jacob, how is the chung a book club choice when it's not due out until march? are you writing from the future? if so, can you let me know if the wonky tiles in our shower are something we should take care of now? 

jacob said...

wrong chung-with-korean-protagonists, i now see. i was thinking of long for this world by sonya chung. dude, i don't need to be from the future to tell you to fix shower tiles - megan enjoys(?) telling me freak stories of people getting TBIs from slipping in the shower and hitting their heads. plus, more prosaically, mold issues.

since i'm already in the comment section, you might enjoy ian frazier's great plains as well, though it has less cross-cultural zaniness than the siberia excerpts i've read from you and the new yorker.

kidchamp said...

i think frazier's going to be this jan/feb's tolstoy;* i've been talking joe's ear off for the past few weeks about how much i love his curiosity, and his particular mixture of solid history with anecdotal frosting (an extended bio of the most prominent decembrists, then a tale of a watermelon-foisting town along the highway: perfect). he chases all the right things. i'm reading his entire catalogue.

the thing about the shower tiles is that they're these 12x12 marble panels, and i don't think we can really address the mystery without shattering them and replacing them, and it sounds like a LOT of work. so far the fix has been to regrout around the edge of the migrating one (which sticks out at the top about a quarter of an inch), which...it doesn't seem to be getting any worse? izrazets i doraki.

*another weird frazier fact: he cited this recent national poll (hey russians, who's your all-time favorite countryman?) in which stalin placed third (second?), pushkin was fourth, and tolstoy wasn't even in the top dozen. he didn't make note of that, i mean, but i did. 

kidchamp said...

that would be a correct-guess sandwich, sir. 

jacob said...

uh, 1=Collins, 12=Chung. i win?

kidchamp said...

thank you for that formality. i'd have fretted over those guesses and been forced to browbeat you all over twitter for the next week. round 3 is behind us!

Rob S. Parham said...

guess? ppssshhh, that's organized skill right there.