Friday, June 21, 2013

Christine Quinn's Political and Literary Platforms

The symbolism of guardian lion statuary

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's political biography has sold about 100 copies in its first week on sale. Whilst this must be personally devastating to Speaker Quinn, who admits in the memoir that she suffers from something bordering on Irish Catholic guilt, this is a sign that Speaker Quinn's book was troubled from its inception.

Christine Quinn's political biography, With Patience and Virtue, was named after the two lion statues that sit outside as guardians to the main entrance of the great New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, you know, the one that is being gutted and destroyed.

This was one part of Michelle Goldberg's review of Speaker Quinn's book, which was published by The Daily Beast :

"It’s hard to figure out just what Quinn is doing here. Sure, her book’s sentimentality and self-deprecating girlishness might leaven her image as a brash virago, a woman whose friends and colleagues described her in a New York Times cover story as 'controlling, temperamental and surprisingly volatile, with a habit of hair-trigger eruptions of unchecked, face-to-face wrath.' It does very little, however, to demonstrate executive competence or show us what Quinn hopes to do in office. It’s more a chatty recovery memoir rather than a campaign manifesto, as if Quinn thinks that New Yorkers will vote for her as long as they can sympathize with her."

Much has been, and continues to be, made about Speaker Quinn's ascendance into the position as the first woman and first openly LGBT Speaker of the City Council, as if that was some kind of a remarkable LGBT achievement in 2006, as if that event should have been an important cultural touchstone for average New Yorkers.

To write a political biography means that a great public traveler amongst us must have had a huge impact on our lives, or else that there are inspiring and compelling experiences in the traveler's metaphorical voyage in life that need to be shared, to inspire other travelers in our own journeys through life.

There are many reasons that Speaker Quinn's book has been failing to resonate with the reading public. As we link to reviews of her political memoir, let's focus on the symbolism invoked by the guardian lion statuary referred to in the book title.

NYPL Library - Guardian Lion Statuary - Christine Quinn photo NYPL-lion-533-Lars-Klove-for-The-New-York-Times

Speaker Quinn has been so closely linked with supporting and enabling controversial policies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, which critics describe as supporting a 1% agenda, to use Occupy Wall Street language.

What does it mean when the great traveler amongst us, who writes a book, is so tone deaf to her critics -- she had her City Hall office sound-proofed -- that she would pick the name of immobile, ineffectual guardians that basically are only there for show, whilst the New York Public Library is receiving an expensive $350 million renovation that will ruin its research and antiquarian assets during a time that the city government, over which Speaker Quinn has administered, has slashed it support for other public libraries ?

It's not just that the book's title serves as a reminder of Speaker Quinn's failure to stand up for all libraries -- for all programs that benefit the 99% -- but the title also serves to remind voters that Speaker Quinn herself is tone deaf to her own insensitivity and betrayals. The only worse book title could have been to name it after St. Vincent's Hospital. Many residents in the community formerly served by St. Vincent's blame Speaker Quinn for doing nothing to save the hospital from closing in 2010, much like many Progressive activists blame Speaker Quinn for doing nothing to save social and cultural institutions from being decimated under Mayor Bloomberg. It was as if Speaker Quinn was a mere marble statue, there for show, only a symbol of being a guardian, but, in reality, just an immobile witness to the gutting of the social safety net in New York City. That willful indifference and insensitivity was what doomed her political memoir from the start. That energy is what infuses Speaker Quinn's character, and somehow Speaker Quinn's publisher thought that she was going to somehow come across as being endearing or compelling to book buyers ? Let's look at how others have reviewed Speaker Quinn's book :

From The Politicker :

"Ms. Quinn spends thousands of words, for instance, describing every aspect of her nuptials–from the rejected hair styles and Wedding Day SoulCyle outing, to the full text of her and wife Kim Catullo’s vows. Meanwhile, as the New York Times noted, there is precious little space devoted to the political aspects of her time as speaker, with not a single reference to the damaging slush fund scandal, just two pages and little reflection on her decision to overturn term limits to allow Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third term, and no insights whatsoever on her relationship with the current mayor."

From The New York Times :

Still, much of the prose can be flat and unadorned; some passages offer curiously little insight. On why she chose to be in government: 'I really like being with people and doing things with them, and it has always made me feel good to get things done.' "

From Bob Hardt of NY1 :

"Ultimately, With Patience and Fortiude is Oprah-lite. We hear much about Quinn's challenges in her life and how she's overcome them. But the only reason why people are reading her book rather than someone's random blog post is because of what she's accomplished – and that she's running for mayor. And on both of those fronts, the normally-talkative Quinn is remarkably silent."

If Speaker Quinn's book has failed to meet sales expectations, it could be because book buyers sensed that there was something wrong with the energy behind how the book came to be. The journey that everybody was expecting Speaker Quinn to tell was how she enabled the collapse of infrastructure for the 99% -- everything from the closing of 10 hospitals under her watch, to the closings of senior citizen centers, child care centers, and now public libraries. But this memoir goes against this great expectation, and instead it has the feel of something more calculating.

Indeed, the NYTimes reported that Speaker Quinn's political campaign consultant, Josh Isay, helped to package this book deal. Critics have suggested that the memoir was conceived as part of a sinister machination to shore up support for Speaker Quinn's mayoral campaign. If this book was only meant to deceive voters, then maybe that miscalculation turned out to be every bit much of a mistake as was naming the book after "make-believe" guardians that failed to protect the New York Public Library from ruination.

The mistakes with Speaker Quinn's book could only be made by a politician, who had stood as silently as the fabled lions after which the memoir are titled, while Mayor Bloomberg and his 1% political doctrine enablers gutted and destroyed New York City for three terms from the inside out. Just as those lions, Speaker Quinn has arguably stood deaf, impervious, and unmoved by the decay being wrought from within.

Maybe the larger lesson to metaphorical travelers is that Speaker Quinn's fable offers us the cautionary tale that some modern epic journeys involve proverbial turbulence, screaming babies on planes, lost luggage, yucky food, missed connections, stolen credit cards, and bad weather -- all rolled up into one horrible vacation experience.

How is this an inspiring and compelling story to feed our imagination, if we already lived through this horror story under the Bloomberg-Quinn administration ?

No comments:

Post a Comment