The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Inspector’s Daughter

October 19, 2010

I don’t read books, but if I did, I would have my choice of about a thousand novels out there all with basically the same title. Name a profession or a type of person, and then give that person a wife or a daughter, and there’s your title. For example: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Optimist’s Daughter, The Pilot’s Wife, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and so on. There are many, many more. What should we take from this trend? Are these authors implying that women are only interesting insofar as they are connected to interesting men? Or is it simply that this is seen as a new angle to take when writing about familiar subjects, e.g.: “You’ve read about interesting men before, now read about the effect these interesting men have on the women closest to them”? Or are these authors attempting to attract a female market for their book, figuring that every female book-buyer is someone’s daughter and many are someone’s wife? I don’t know, but I have to admit that there’s something alluring about these titles. I once thought of trying something similar and writing a short story called “The Obfuscator’s Chambermaid.” Now, I only have a vague notion of what either of those words mean, so the story in my head was a little disjointed. The protagonist was a female chess champion with Huntington’s Disease living in Chicago who slept every night on the subway and hustled old men playing chess in the park who thought they were hustling her. One of these men, a gritty old windbag with a gentle soul and a penchant for rambling on for hours about the past (the obfuscator) would invite her to be his live-in maid. She’d accept, but her hand would always shake from the Huntington’s while she was carrying his bedpan, with hilarious results. She would end up falling in love with his son, who is a doctor doing cutting-edge research on Huntington’s, but with a violent, unpredictable temper and a deep-rooted loathing of chess (obviously I would have inserted a revealing father-son anecdote here). How could this story possibly end but in a phantasmagoria of bloodshed, ineffective medicine, and chessmen scattered like shrapnel on the floor? There could be no other way. I had it all plotted out before I remembered that in addition to not reading books, I most certainly do not write stories.

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