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No. 91/92: A Diary of a Year on the Bus

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A love letter to Paris and a meditation on how it has changed in two decades, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital. Your telephone is precious. It may be envied. We recommend vigilance when using it in public. —Paris bus public notice In fall 2014 Lauren Elkin began keeping a diary of her bus commutes in the Notes app on her iPhone A love letter to Paris and a meditation on how it has changed in two decades, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital. Your telephone is precious. It may be envied. We recommend vigilance when using it in public. —Paris bus public notice In fall 2014 Lauren Elkin began keeping a diary of her bus commutes in the Notes app on her iPhone 5c, writing down the interesting things and people she saw in a Perecquian homage to Bus Lines 91 and 92, which she took from her apartment in the 5th Arrondissement to her teaching job in the 7th. Reading the notice, she decided to be vigilant when using her phone: she would carry out a public transport vigil, using it to take in the world around her and notice all the things she would miss if she continued using it the way she had been, the way everyone does—to surf the web, check social media, maintain her daily sense of self through digital interaction. Her goal became to observe the world through the screen of her phone, rather than using her phone to distract from the world. During the course of that academic year, the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred and Elkin had an ectopic pregnancy, requiring emergency surgery. At that point, her diary of dailiness became a study of the counterpoint between the everyday and the Event, mediated through early twenty-first century technology, and observed from the height of a bus seat. 91/92 is a love letter to Paris, and a meditation on how it has changed in the two decades the author has lived there, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital.


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A love letter to Paris and a meditation on how it has changed in two decades, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital. Your telephone is precious. It may be envied. We recommend vigilance when using it in public. —Paris bus public notice In fall 2014 Lauren Elkin began keeping a diary of her bus commutes in the Notes app on her iPhone A love letter to Paris and a meditation on how it has changed in two decades, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital. Your telephone is precious. It may be envied. We recommend vigilance when using it in public. —Paris bus public notice In fall 2014 Lauren Elkin began keeping a diary of her bus commutes in the Notes app on her iPhone 5c, writing down the interesting things and people she saw in a Perecquian homage to Bus Lines 91 and 92, which she took from her apartment in the 5th Arrondissement to her teaching job in the 7th. Reading the notice, she decided to be vigilant when using her phone: she would carry out a public transport vigil, using it to take in the world around her and notice all the things she would miss if she continued using it the way she had been, the way everyone does—to surf the web, check social media, maintain her daily sense of self through digital interaction. Her goal became to observe the world through the screen of her phone, rather than using her phone to distract from the world. During the course of that academic year, the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred and Elkin had an ectopic pregnancy, requiring emergency surgery. At that point, her diary of dailiness became a study of the counterpoint between the everyday and the Event, mediated through early twenty-first century technology, and observed from the height of a bus seat. 91/92 is a love letter to Paris, and a meditation on how it has changed in the two decades the author has lived there, evolving from the twentieth century into the twenty-first, from analog to digital.

58 review for No. 91/92: A Diary of a Year on the Bus

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    The moments of history which shatter our every day are moments to redefine our togetherness. The rest of the time, we're engrossed in our phones, same as anyone else, anywhere else. This is the 18th book from the wonderful small independent press Les Fugitives - reviews of all of them at my dedicated Goodreads shelf. 'No. 91/92: notes on a Paris commute' is quite literally that, notes taken on a Paris commute on a bus, actually recorded on Elkin's phone: The following entries were composed in the No The moments of history which shatter our every day are moments to redefine our togetherness. The rest of the time, we're engrossed in our phones, same as anyone else, anywhere else. This is the 18th book from the wonderful small independent press Les Fugitives - reviews of all of them at my dedicated Goodreads shelf. 'No. 91/92: notes on a Paris commute' is quite literally that, notes taken on a Paris commute on a bus, actually recorded on Elkin's phone: The following entries were composed in the Notes app on a yellow iPhone 5c over a period of seven months, from September 2014 to May 2015, while riding the 91 and then the 92 bus in Paris to and from the university where I taught twice a week, and occasionally during other trips on public transport. The goal was to observe the world through the screen of my phone, rather than to use my phone to distract myself from the world. Along the way I thought a lot about how people live together, and experience trauma on an everyday level.  The trauma referenced includes both the societal - the Charlie Hebdo attack and the Hyper Cacher siege took place over 7-9 January 2015 - and the personal, the author suffering from an ectopic pregnancy. The Bataclan attack was 6 months after the end of the diary entries. Twice each week Elkin takes the 91 bus from Port-Royal Berthollet, changing to the 92 at Place du 18 Juin 1940 and getting off at Ecole Militaire, and then returns later in the day. This is the first of Les Fugitives' books not to be translated from French, but the fit with their list feels appropriate given the novel is infused with Parisian culture, with French phrases and snatches of conversation sprinkled throughout, and as explained in the author's Granta's Notes on Craft the literary antecedents of the book, rooted in French literature: It took encountering the work of two French writers, Georges Perec and Annie Ernaux, for me to begin to see that the writing that happened in the diary could itself be a means of publicly engaging with the world. Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, in which he sat at a café in the Place Saint-Sulpice for three days and attempted to record all the comings and going he saw there – people, birds, buses – was an obvious reference point for me, and a permission-giving text in terms of helping me get outside the usual forms, subjects and procedures for book-writing. But so was Ernaux’s less well-known Journal du dehors, out in English this fall from Fitzcarraldo Editions as Exteriors translated by Tanya Leslie, in which she took notes on the people she saw on the RER train on her commute from her suburban home in Cergy-Pontoise (coincidently, the current location of all my notebooks) to central Paris. ... Following their example, I was emboldened to think that a diary I kept on my phone on the bus could actually be a book that people might be curious enough to read In an interview in the Guardian Elkin also gives a more informal, and personal, take on the origins of the book. An example entry reads: 02/10/14 Thursday morning n the early sunlight the sea foam green sign on the 21's forehead glows gold, as if it were passing for another bus, the yellow 83 perhaps. Maybe at night when we're all asleep the buses sneak out and try each other's routes. At any rate neither of these buses is my bus. In the morning rush to work the world is a little messy. A Mercedes has climbed up on the side-walk and waits there, its blinkers on; the car seems to know it's doing something not quite right; people of all ages scoot by on those razor things and sometimes they scoot into other people and every-one is grouchy but they move on quickly. There is much rushing across streets to make the light, especially from me, as you never know when the 91 bus might be lurking just down the road, ready to rush up the minute you're stuck waiting to cross the street. This morning I make the light, and sure enough the bus is approaching, almost empty. The magical mythical 8:12. I have made the magic bus. Almost as hard to catch as the cat bus in My Neighbor Totoro.  Neko no basu! The bus diary comes with two further, lengthier entries. One is written on the metro 6 months later in November 2015, after the Bataclan and other attacks on 13 November (a powerful piece which resonated for me with taking the tube after the 7 July 2005 bombings in the UK). The other in March 2021, at the time that Elkin prepared the notes for publication, reflecting on the book from a post-pandemic perspective, and which contrast the collective unity that follows tragic events with the insularity of the commuter and their smart phone. Recommended

  2. 4 out of 5

    Saartje

    This book already had a special place in my heart from the moment my eye fell on it. That was last week, in a bookshop Paris, my favorite city. I consciously read this book in different places; on the couch, in the bus or train, in bed... I loved it. It made me chuckle and it made me sad. Some parts truly touched me, gave me goosebumps, made me stop and think for a moment. However small and light-hearted this book may seem, it has left its mark on me and I shall now (literally) carry it with me s This book already had a special place in my heart from the moment my eye fell on it. That was last week, in a bookshop Paris, my favorite city. I consciously read this book in different places; on the couch, in the bus or train, in bed... I loved it. It made me chuckle and it made me sad. Some parts truly touched me, gave me goosebumps, made me stop and think for a moment. However small and light-hearted this book may seem, it has left its mark on me and I shall now (literally) carry it with me so that I can return to its pages whenever, wherever. (* Note to self: try out metro (tram/train) poetry)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tom Fish

    This made me feel like I should be more productive on my commute. I did read all of this on the tube though so bonus points for me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bart Van Overmeire

    The title says it all: these are the notes that Elkin wrote on her iPhone during the commute to and from her work. Written 6 years ago, but it took her a few years to consider these notes as a book. Don't wait that long, fellow readers (or do, this will still be very good in a few years time). Short tranches de vie, about personal as well as public experiences. Highly recommended. The title says it all: these are the notes that Elkin wrote on her iPhone during the commute to and from her work. Written 6 years ago, but it took her a few years to consider these notes as a book. Don't wait that long, fellow readers (or do, this will still be very good in a few years time). Short tranches de vie, about personal as well as public experiences. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Keri Walsh

    I remember visiting a friend of mine in Paris, a generous and glamorous Canadian who had a job with a French company. After several years of taking the Metro to work, she had decided that she didn't want to descend to its depths any more-- she wanted to travel through the city at eye level, to see the sights of the city, and so she started to take the bus to work. She took me with her on one of her bus rides through Paris, and I loved seeing the city from that angle. Lauren Elkin's book, a chron I remember visiting a friend of mine in Paris, a generous and glamorous Canadian who had a job with a French company. After several years of taking the Metro to work, she had decided that she didn't want to descend to its depths any more-- she wanted to travel through the city at eye level, to see the sights of the city, and so she started to take the bus to work. She took me with her on one of her bus rides through Paris, and I loved seeing the city from that angle. Lauren Elkin's book, a chronicle of Paris as seen from bus commutes over the course of a year, reminded me of that trip and of my friend. In No. 91/92, Lauren Elkin chronicles a year's worth of commutes to teach a twice-weekly literature class. In the course of that year, Paris suffers the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks, and Elkin loses a pregnancy. Elkin has a subtle sense of humor, an observant eye, and a candor that gives the book an intimate quality. I loved especially the way she noticed women at all stages of life on the bus-- their clothes, their children, their habits. And I enjoyed how she described the simultaneous irritation and affection we feel towards those with whom we share public transportation. This becomes quite moving near the book's end, as Elkin puts it in a larger historical frame. This book would pair well with Eric Hazan's A Walk Through Paris, Rebecca Solnit's Walking, and of course, Elkin's first book, Flaneuse. This book also made me want to read Perec's "An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris." Elkin's view of Paris is so uncliched, and no one brings French cultural history to life more thoughtfully than she does.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    I liked the author's observational viewpoint. There are a lot of ways to slice and dice our experiences. It took me about an hour to read. Made me think of some of my past experiences using Public Transportation. Interesting references to authors and music. I liked the author's observational viewpoint. There are a lot of ways to slice and dice our experiences. It took me about an hour to read. Made me think of some of my past experiences using Public Transportation. Interesting references to authors and music.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    brings to mind the dynamic between ethnography + anonymity

  8. 5 out of 5

    Summer Brennan

    I inhaled this book in one sitting. It was absolutely thrilling. More to follow.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Pichel

    short but very interesting, thought provoking.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Adam

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dolly

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bri

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  14. 5 out of 5

    James

  15. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Rex

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marie

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  18. 5 out of 5

    Callum McAllister

  19. 5 out of 5

    erika

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Norton

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  23. 5 out of 5

    ClumsyBeardy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Shepard

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ayanda

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nina

  29. 5 out of 5

    Violet

  30. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  31. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  32. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  33. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

  34. 4 out of 5

    Possibly in Michigan, London

  35. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  36. 4 out of 5

    Gonca

  37. 4 out of 5

    Ingeborg Frey

  38. 4 out of 5

    Louis Johnson

  39. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  40. 4 out of 5

    Barbora Kavaliauskaite

  41. 4 out of 5

    Alwynne

  42. 4 out of 5

    Solenn

  43. 4 out of 5

    J

  44. 5 out of 5

    Scott Barnett

  45. 5 out of 5

    Kasturi (bruadarach reads)

  46. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

  47. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Rushton

  48. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  49. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  50. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Chretien

  51. 4 out of 5

    Anne Marie Ellison

  52. 4 out of 5

    Julie Alagna

  53. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn

  54. 5 out of 5

    Lucie McLaughlin

  55. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  56. 4 out of 5

    A

  57. 4 out of 5

    Kaplan

  58. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

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