Book review: "Subway" by Horace Mungin

Posted on November 16, 2008

Before moving to Baltimore, I had had little experience riding most types of mass transportation. Back at home in Louisville, I occasionally took the bus places, but most of my other experiences were infrequent. I can count on one hand the number of cities (Chicago, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco) where I had ridden some form of public transit.

But after being in Baltimore for two years, including a job in D.C., I quickly saw the light rail, subway, commuter train and bus from a completely different angle. That's exactly what I hoped to get out of "Subway - After the Irish" by Horace Mungin. I was not disappointed.

Mungin's historical fiction novel traverses the ins and outs of the New York subway system through a tumultuous time period primarily during the '60s and '70s. The focus switches between the work on the subway (and the stress that can come with it), various political issues and general chit-chat that oftentimes connected work , current issues and pleasure.

Reading "Subway" almost makes you feel as if you are one of the workers with the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, or maybe an innocent bystander riding one of the long legs of a route. The emotions throughout the men and women vary from fear to adulation to depression to acceptance during the book's journey. And those descriptors are not necessarily in any particular order, because it depends on whether or not you want to take the role of conductor or passenger.

At the very least, I think you'll have a better appreciation of the folks who run the mass transportation units near you. And if you're interested in the political and ethnic events surrounding New York during this time period, then you'll find an extra bonus in "Subway." All aboard!