Wednesday, November 30, 2005 | The more noble prize:

I once got on the subway at 96th and Broadway in Manhattan and sat down opposite a handsome young African-American woman who was reading a book of mine. The train rattled along and I waited for her to smile or laugh but she didn't. She did, however, keep reading. I stayed on the train past 72nd and 42nd and 34th and finally it was too much for me -- if she had slapped the book shut and tossed it away, it would've hurt me so awfully bad, so I got off at 14th and I was a more thoughtful man for the rest of the day. A writer craves readers, but what passes between him and them is so intimate that it's unbearable to sit and watch.