‘I Opened the Book App on My Tablet and Began Reading’


Dear Diary:

I got on the last car of an uptown No. 1 train at Columbus Circle on a midweek evening. Squeezing into a seat next to a tall man, I opened the book app on my tablet and began reading where I had left off earlier.

“Are you reading ‘The Iliad’ on the subway?” the tall man asked in a tone of slight disbelief.

I said yes and explained that it was the Emily Wilson translation of Homer’s epic, which had recently been released to great acclaim.

“But how did you know what I was reading?” I asked.

“I saw a few of the names,” he said. “It couldn’t be anything else.”

“I’m a hopeless monoglot,” I told him. “Do you know it in the original?”

He nodded. “I had three years of Homer in graduate school.”

“Really? Do you have any left now?”

He cocked his head and quoted the opening lines, the ancient tongue sounding as smooth as flowing water.

I laughed out loud at the beauty of it, and at the unlikelihood of hearing ancient Greek spoken on the subway.

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