Seen Reading

by Julie Wilson

"Caucasian female, 50s, with ruffled blond hair, wearing heavy winter coat, carrying a bright floral purse. Wuthering Heights, pg 145.

Seen Reading is the product of a self-proclaimed "literary voyeur", Julie Wilson. The book is based on her website:  In her blog, and in her book, she writes about sightings of people on the Toronto transit system.  She quickly describes them, their outfit, and notes the book that they are reading.  After that, she writes a short and poignant creative writing piece about them.  She addresses the reader as only "he" or "she", and sometimes makes reference to something about their appearance or their book.  She takes "people watching" to a whole new level; she watches people, notes what they are reading, and then makes up a story about them.  

I loved this book.  Everything about it was so perfect. I love public transit.  I once wrote an essay about the people of the bus as a subculture. And I obviously love books and reading.  Wilson's short fiction pieces are sometimes fun, sometimes dramatic, and sometimes provocative.  They resonated with me, as a lover of books.  I often want to know how other people feel when they experience something in a book.  I mean, reading is a solitary activity for many people.  You read a book on your own.  Reading books aloud is something saved for a certain group of people.  People who want to talk about what they read join book clubs. 

I think that what Wilson has done in Seen Reading is told the stories of hundreds of nameless readers. She doesn't know where they come from, or what they do.  All she knows is the name of the book they're reading on their commute.  The name of the book they chose to read in public.  The name of the book that now defines them in her book. 

Wilson's concept is brilliant in its simplicity.  It is her skill as a creative writer that brings her project, her blog and her book, to life.  You can be a literary voyeur, as well.  Describe a person, note their book title, add #seenreading, tweet on Twitter and you're done.  I'm totally going to start doing this. 

♥ Meg xoxo

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