“One day, a man of average height stood on a station platform holding a very heavy bag.  That man was me, but it was not my bag.”

When a book starts thusly, one can only imagine what is to follow.  Although I could anticipate the possibilities, I at least knew the ride with Christian Oster would be nothing short of entertaining brilliance.  And I was right.

In the Train, translated from the original French by Adriana Hunter, tells in first person how one man named Frank, in his eccentric attempts to find a woman, meets a likely prospect at a train station.  Finding unusual and sometimes embarrassing ways to stay in her presence, the resulting 148 pages form a book that you don’t want to read in public.  Unless you enjoy laughing out loud in the dentist’s office waiting room, that is.

At the center of Oster’s latest translated bit of genius is yet another quirky and socially inept individual you’ll wish you knew in person.  So seemingly out of touch with social convention is this story’s hero that if Woody Allen were to meet the man, he’d probably comment, “Nice, but a little neurotic.”

One thing I appreciate in Oster’s writing is his ability to convey to the reader what others think of the narrator – even when the narrator is totally clueless as to how others perceive him.  And Oster can keep his audience cringing with embarrassment over Frank’s behavior while simultaneously laughing and hoping for more of the same.  

But In the Train isn’t a laugh-a-minute, fluffy entertainment piece.  This story can be viewed through many windows.  For instance, our train traveling individual finds himself in situations where all he can do is suppose things.  He supposes how others view him, he supposes what’s going on in their minds, he supposes one thing after another – correctly  or incorrectly as the reader is left guessing.  As his assumptions shift, grow, get tossed and reformed, it’s as if the story – and the reader’s assumptions – morph constantly from one possibility to another.  And isn’t that how our lives indeed go?  As we choose how to perceive situations, even the people around us, don’t we write and rewrite our own realities?  And will the man of average height who took the train to chase the girl write his own reality, and eventually win her over, despite his lack of social graces?  One need only read the book to find out.

Want to win your own copy of the book I couldn’t put down and finished mere hours after receiving it (woe is me – when’s the next Oster?)  I have an extra copy to give away, fresh from Object Press.

Multiple Options for Multiple Entries:

1.) Just tell me about a preconceived notion you once held but was shattered.  Or perhaps you were right all along.  (***You may enter once a day, but please list a new item you like each time.) Remember, leave an interesting comment. If I cannot contact the winner, you might be chosen instead based on your comment.

2.) Blog about, Twitter, and/or Subscribe! Get an extra entry for each of these activities.  This time just leave a separate comment for each (only one time for each extra activity completed), giving me a link to your blog post, your Twitter name, and/or a note saying you’re a subscriber. (Subscribe in the upper right !  

(Psst!  My Twitter name is dkMommy.)

Feel free to do all five to gather multiple entries to win! You have until midnight EST on Monday, April 19, 2010, to enter.