Friday, March 24, 2006

Famous Girls

hello gentle readers. I don't know where this story is going. years ago it was part of "Susan Sontag goes to the gym," but I later realized there were 2 ideas going on, and this should be it's own animal. Please comment with your ideas.

In the fifth grade, she discovered a series of "girls' biographies" in the branch library. Sun-faded covers with a red band on the spine of each one, they recounted the lives of Famous Girls, while the companion series, about patriots, presidents, and men who cured diseases, was called Famous Americans. Most of them were missing from the shelf, but the girls were always lined up straight, ready to be put to use.

She had originally been drawn by the orderliness of their numbered spines, and the way their red bands bled together into one stripe down the long shelf. They were written in an arch 1950's style ("Young Clara's raven black hair...") of challenging verbs like "pondered" and "retorted."

Squatting on her heels, she planted my hands on my knees and whispered their names between the shelves. she ritualized how she would read them all: in the end she created fifty lots inside a box, which she would draw by closing her eyes. But that first day it was No. 1, Abigail Adams. They got more exotic as the series went on, no doubt desparate for 50 girls worth discussing. Susan B Anthony. Sacagawea. Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind. Later, in college, her women's studies professor would call that same series "The Usual Suspects."

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