Oct 30 2011
The Submission has been compared to Richard Price’s richly evocative novels of New York life. It’s an apt comparison, though Amy Waldman brings a new cast of characters to bear, members of the Bangladeshi community.
The Submission by Amy Waldman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages, $26.
by Harvey Blume
Mohammed Khan, aka Mo, the main character of Amy Waldman’s compelling novel, shares a trait with Herman Melville’s infuriatingly opaque creation, Bartleby the scrivener. Like Bartleby, Mohammed, at key times, prefers not to. But unlike Bartleby, a becalmed functionary in a bygone trade (a copyist), Mo, an up and coming Manhattan architect, is at the epicenter of a roiling conflict over the memorial to be placed at Ground Zero. His preference not to explain, placate, or assuage — combined with inherent inability to do so — exacerbates a city-wide conflict with global repercussions.
Khan has submitted what turns out to be the winning design for the Ground Zero memorial. He proposes a garden with real trees planted alongside inverted steel trees fashioned out of metal salvaged from the demolished towers. Canals crisscross the site. A raised platform for meditation is positioned at its center. The walls surrounding this six acre complex are inscribed with the names of those who died in the 9/11 attack.