Michael Bywater Big Babies.
Granta Books, 256 pages, £14.99

It should’ve been a joke. There, in my subway car, alongside ads for personal injury lawyers and TOEFL classes—an admonition not to ride on the outside of the train! For those without the benefit of a TOEFL class, there was even a photo of a man taking what we may safely assume was his last trip.

No joke: Section 1050.9d of the MTA Rules of Conduct states that “no person may ride on the roof … or on any other area outside any subway car or bus or other conveyance.” I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Section 1050.9e prohibits standing stock-still in front of an oncoming train.

Such warnings are the nursery-murals of the nanny state; I might not have noticed this one had I not been reading Big Babies, a comical...

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