Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book Review: The Submission by Amy Waldman

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.

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.