Why empty streets are just as scary as fallen bodies
The iconography of terrorism tends toward the human form, but other images have profound effects as well.
I generally have a pretty steely stomach for political machinations (seven years in Washington will do that to a person—I hear tolerance only increases), but there was something a little nauseating about watching the pre-determined defeat of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate yesterday. (“Paycheck Fairness fails in the Senate, as expected,” reported The Washington Post. “Senate Democrats knew they had little chance of passing the Pay Fairness Act on Tuesday,” said NPR.) This legislation addresses the wage gap between men and women.
Over the past several months, there has been a biting back and forth over the New York Public Library’s planned renovation (the so-called Central Library Plan or CLP), which would close two midtown circulating libraries, open a circulating library within the main research library on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, and move several million books off-site to make way for new facilities. It might be more accurate to say that there’s been a lot of pushing back and not much pressing forth. The plan has been criticized in The Nation, The Village Voice, The New York Times, and elsewhere.
I’m not unsympathetic to the arguments recently raised by Meg Wolitzer in The New York Times Book Review, and by my colleague Ruth Franklin, regarding the marginalization of “women’s fiction.” Yet both their pieces contained an irksome assumption: Female authors don’t want “women stuff” on their book covers. All that girly junk is just a means of marginalization. “Look at some of the jackets of novels by women,” Wolitzer writes: Laundry hanging on a line. A little girl in a field of wildflowers. A pair of shoes on a beach. An empty swing on the porch of an old yellow house.
About 10 years ago, something terrible happened: Strangers began to get comfortable with my first name. Throughout elementary school, I suffered mispronunciations (chole, rhymes with coal, was common) and misunderstandings (“What’s that short for?”). But what my name caused me in annoyance, it made up for in distinction. “Chloe” (or “Chloë or “Chloé”) was both classic and uncommon, I came to realize. Cookie-cutter was dull, different was daring—and yet “Chloe” was distinct without being ridiculous or made up. Then, other people caught on.