Angels in the subway

What a strange morning.

Around 9:00 I was taking the F into Manhattan from Brooklyn. I managed to score a seat by the window. (Already the unusual begins…) In my rush, I’d forgotten to bring a book, so I decided to tune out to my iPod. It’s the usual New York rush hour mix: a Moby-looking, bespectacled guy reading a book of interviews with Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, and other underground punk luminaries (I was trying to read over his shoulder without being obvious, but he was much taller than I was, which made it tough.) A woman with a broken compact trying to put on her mascara. (Hey, it’s all fun and games till someone loses an eye.) Lots of people with their New York Times under their arms, fingers moving in a flurry of text messaging. Some moms on their way to work dropping off kids at daycare first. Tourists with their maps written in various languages trying to navigate our less-than-user-friendly transportation system. (“Is Macy’s at 34th Street and 8th Avenue or 34th Street and 6th Avenue and how would I know this?”). And one of New York’s finest who seemed all of about fifteen and looked incredibly bored. Or maybe when you have a gun holster strapped to you, you adopt that stance out of habit.

So it’s me and the teeming mass of commuters. I’m zoning out to “Anywhere on this Road” by Lhasa Del Sala. It’s a very haunting song that Rachel Cohn turned me on to. Lhasa has a deep, husky, seductive-yet-oddly-emotionally-disconnected voice. In my head I’m thinking about the graphic novel I want to work on when I’ve finished with prior commitments. Something dark and urban and spooky. The train’s jostling along. And just as Lhasa sings, “If I can stand up to angels and men, I’ll never be swallowed by darkness again…” something shiny in the deep tunnel shadows catches my eye. It takes me a second to process what I’m seeing. There, in one of the filthy hollows of the subway tunnels under a bare bulb sits a young blonde woman. She’s sitting cross-legged and wearing what looks like a white straitjacket, her arms not visible. She’s got her head down-asleep? nodding out? dead?–and the light’s making her hair into a halo of white fire blown about by the subway’s fierce breath. I just stared at her, trying to determine whether she was really there or not. I wanted to turn to Moby Guy and say, “Hey, do you see that woman down there…?” And then the train pushed on, past fat silver graffitti letters and dark, concrete pylons and into the bleach-bright lights of the Jay St./Borough Hall subway station lined two deep with people waiting impatiently to get where they were going. I couldn’t help thinking of Holly Black’s VALIANT, which, if you haven’t read, you must.

Then we get to W. 4th Street, and there on the platform is a pair of men’s sneakers, one on its side, surrounded by many scraps of paper and what looks like ashes or lint or something, as if some dude was standing there and just self-combusted, leaving his shoes behind. And I thought, man oh man, it’s going to be a weird, weird day.

So I came home and ate lunch and changed my shoes. Because if I self-combust, I want to go out in my favorites.

179 thoughts on “Angels in the subway

  1. Wanted to add: If you do get any say in who’s cast in the movie, I hope you can get an all British/Indian cast with complete unknowns for Gemma, Kartik, Felicity, Ann, and Pippa. I just feel it’d be ruined with expectations if famous actors played the parts or if Americans were doing it.

  2. Angel

    I feel like I’ve got something in common with the “angel”. I’ve recently been falling asleep in classes, due to working late at work…Arms crossed under my jacket for warmth, and head down…And woken up to look up and see people staring at me. …Are we that odd, we sleeping “angels”? Oh, well. It kinda makes me feel special. 😀

    Good job on GaTB and RA…I’ve got my friends started on them. I seem to do that. I feel somewhat like a librarian sometimes. -lopsided grin- But it makes you feel so wonderful to know that you’ve helped people read more!

    Keep up the fantastic work, and I cannot wait for the latest book to be finished in editing…Tell them to keep it quick, yeah? 😛

  3. Most definitely start Holly Black’s books. Maybe Tamora Pierce depending on what books you like. I found Holly Black through tamora’s website…and I read Tithe and Valiant. Ironside is due out in May I think and it’s the third and final book in the modern faery tale series.

  4. hi

    I know that I am not referring to your journal entry, sorry. But I have just finished reading A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels. I was wondering if you are writing a third book, if not you should because I thought that it was amazing. Thanks again.

  5. Hmm… rather creepily Neverwhereish, that girl.

    And I’m trying very hard not to think about my favorite shoes, battered slipper-style shoes with starrish flowers. My friend would probably just laugh at them.

  6. random question

    Are you writing another book to follow the open ending that was left in Rebel Angels????????
    I am dying to know!!

  7. Thoughts…

    I think you should do another interview and discuss your thoughts on Rebel Angels and the possibilities of writing another sequel to this enthralling novel.

  8. Hi on the chance you read all your comments one by one, I have a question/request. I know that the third book is probably already set the way it’s going to be released which I have no doubt, will be wonderful. But would you consider bringing Simon back into the mix? Maybe Gemma could find that he supports her and loves her despite the whole “I travel to different worlds” thing? Is that idea totally far-fetched? If you read this would you please send me an e-mail if you’re not too busy? The address is BallerinaMRC@yahoo.com Thanx, if you write I’d really appreciate it but if you don’t I understand.
    Sincerely,
    Avid Reader

  9. The movie

    Libba, on the chance that you will read this can you please post some contact information so i can send a letter to charles sturridge? i really want to be in the movie so I would like to send a cover letter to him. Please could you post something?
    sincerely,
    a fan

  10. shoes to self combust in

    I have always been a shoe freak! I love all shoes but mostly shoes that no one has seen nor ever will see again. In Jr High I had this one pair of sketchers that were bright lime green and they could glow in the dark in broad daylight I swear. My friends found great joy in mocking me and my green shoes. I think those would have to my my combustion shoes. Then people would think as they drove past my ash pile, “oh I knew that girl with those green shoes, that is a real shame she is gone.” YES!!! To be remembered for shoes!

  11. Re: shoes to self combust in

    Oh my gosh! I have these remarkable boots. High heeled, fur lined, absolutely amazing. And at my school, they are famous. But not for the reasons I would like them to be. My brother wore them once for a contest at school, and I can’t wear them without someone commenting on that. It’s been two years. Everyone mocks the great shoes…

  12. Hello,
    Jordan Hart again. I would love to have a signed copy of your book. That would be completely fantastic. Do you just want my address over livejournal? Also, when I do eventually need a prosthetic eye, the name of those doctors would be fantastic. Thanks so much for your support.

  13. A Great And Terrible Beauty+ Rebel Angels

    One word: wow!
    your books were truly breathtaking about 10 mins ago i finished Rebel Angels, so i thought i’d look at your site.

    I havent put your books down since i started them they were just to good!

    They are by far the best books i have ever read!

    Will you be writing another book about Gemma Doyle? I really hope you do as i know lots of people who would buy it. I really hope you write another book about Gemma as i would like to know what happens to her.

    Thank you for giving me such a good read! and keep up the good work!

    Steff W
    England
    Age: 11

  14. New Book

    Heeeyy Libaa
    Was reading your LJ today when i saw that you were working on a new manuscript . . .
    Does this mean another sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty/Rebel Angels!?!?!?!

    If it does, hip hipp horray!
    Just a suggestion, i love Simon and all, he’s sweet and stuff, but HELLOOO, Kartik sounds HOTTT!!

    thanks!

  15. Re: A Great and Terrible Beauty trailer

    oh but you have libba. Two of them. Yet that WAS THE BEST MOVIE TRAILER IVE EVER SEEN!!!! And it was in my head too.

  16. Think of having them laminated so that they will stand up to the wear
    and tear of being loved. Sheets of blotting paper or very smooth tissues (if making your own
    pressed plants). A horse trainer, Ben Crane (Kurt Russell), believes that a severely
    injured racehorse deserves another chance.

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