Book Cover Missed Connections


“Such encounters are becoming increasingly difficult. With a growing number of people turning to Kindles and other electronic readers, and with the Apple iPad arriving on Saturday, it is not always possible to see what others are reading or to project your own literary tastes.

“You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.”

At The New York Times, an ingenious investigation into what happens when books no longer have distinctive covers.

I doubt I would attempt a flirtatious conversation with someone reading a Kindle, I have to say.

There was a time, many years ago, when I first moved to San Francisco where I was taking lots of trains and looking at lots of people on those trains.  For any city-dweller part of the charms of such is engaging in eyeball hockey with strangers either seductive or threatening or just plain ambiguous.

During my train rides, I determined that attractive, smart-looking people in my age group, people that I might want to date for example were found to be reading either one of two books: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Both of those books I read as a fledgling San Franciscan and I can attest they certainly colored my experience of living and loving in the City.  The fact that everyone else in my demographic was reading them made me feel part of a distinctive community of fresh-faced dreamers, all of us panning for artistic and erotic gold in our own slipshod ways.

Whenever I scanned the Missed Connections on Craigslist, a pastime that has since lost any of its charm, I would also find those two books popping up in half-hearted descriptions of fleeting, no doubt meaningless “encounters” between smart, attractive people on trains, on buses, or at bars, laundromats and AA meetings.  It seemed, at the time, that the city was simply overrun with good-looking, literate, culturally-astute urbanites and all of them were smiling at each other suggestively on trains and buses.

I’m sure this must have caused lots of confusion though.  And frustration too.

But as I was about to say, before I interrupted myself, I think eventually technology will make everything look and feel the same and at some not too distant point we won’t want to date anybody, much less leave our houses anymore.

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →