July was a good month for fans of literary non-fiction. First, two dads from Westchester County released their collaboration, The New York Commuter’s Glossary, a laugh-out-loud funny look at the unspoken rules and behaviors that make up the Metro-North commuter’s subculture. Then, just across the river, Rockland County native Frank Vitale presented his visually beautiful yet controversial e-book, The Metropolis Organism.
Both locally-penned titles share a distinctly urban vibe; both have been gaining attention among the literary circles. Read on to find out what everyone is buzzing about:
The New York Commuter’s Glossary
Mike Malone of Hawthorne started inventing his commuter’s glossary of terms in 2007 for his commuter blog, Trainjotting.com. Malone said his inspiration came from his own experience as a commuter, “In my early commuting days, I forced myself to find a fun way to cope with this un-fun new aspect of my life,” he said. “Once I had 50-60 words, I figured I had enough for a book.”
But Malone’s collection of tongue-and-cheek terms that would eventually become his Commuter’s Glossary sat unfinished until he met author/illustrator Joe Walden of Valhalla at a backyard barbecue.
“Our wives knew each other through a playgroup they both brought our boys to,” Walden said, “Mike came to me with the text completed, saying he thought it would be great to have some fun illustrations to go along with the terms.” Walden, who was already a published author/illustrator with his children's picture books Grandpa's Smile, and The Peanut Butter and Jelly Game, said, "Hey - I can do that!"
Their collaboration, The New York Commuter’s Glossary, which was published this June, with an e-version released July 26, is chock-full of witty, and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny terms and illustrations depicting the absurdities of the daily commute aboard the Metro-North including:
Booze It or Lose It: The dilemma facing commuters about whether they have time to buy a beer from the Grand Central beer guy without missing their train.
Kneegotiations: The awkward intertwining of two passengers legs as they share facing seats on a commuter train.
The Metropolis Organism
In 1968 Frank Vitale was flying from New York to Los Angeles when he looked out of the window at the city 40,000 feet below. Vitale wrote, “As I looked down, those shapes, those intricate complex, vital things stopped being cities and towns and started being organisms.” Nearly 50 years later, using the Nyack Starbucks as his primary workspace, Vitale researched and wrote The Metropolis Organism.
Published in 2010, The Metropolis Organism is an enhanced ebook based on Vitale’s theory that cities are living, breathing organisms of which humans are necessary but unremarkable organelle. The ebook offers a thought-provoking new perspective on the towns and cities in which we live, but it is also a visually engaging experience—filled with eye-popping, beautiful photographs and videos of metropolises and the microscopic organism to which these cities are compared.
In July, Vitale presented his book at the , the coffee shop connected to the Nyack Library. “Many people liked the concept from a metaphorical perspective. I don't discourage that perspective, but it is not my point. To me, it is obvious that cities are organisms. But, am I the only person on the planet who sees that?” he asked.
Vitale, whose work spans from the fashion magazine industry to film and TV (his credits include the independent film, "Montreal Main," and PBS series "Shining Time Station") said of his enhanced ebook, “I see myself as a pioneer in this medium and I predict there will be a different kind of ebook and author in the future,” Vitale said.
“Over the last few years there have been enhanced ebooks that fell flat because the add-ons—usually video dramatizations or author interviews—weren’t integral to the book. In my case, to transmit my idea I needed to transmit images and videos. Those images were an integral part of the entire book.”
Check out Vitale’s next presentation at the Look Art Gallery in Mahopac on Sept. 16. To purchase The Metropolis Organism, visit the iBookstore and metropolisorganism.com.