Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Submission

The Submission
By: Amy Waldman (her website)
Picador, 2011
A Muslim man, Mohammed (Mo) Khan submits the winning contribution to a competition to design a monument to the victims of 9/11.  The jury's blind selection sets off a firestorm of public opinion.  The Submission details the reactions of Mo, the various jury members, and supporters of both sides - allow Mo's design to stand or select a new winner.
My Thoughts:
1. What a thought-provoking book. Waldman's omniscient narrator does an excellent job of walking the middle ground between the two sides. As a consequence, the reader is free to form her own opinion about what is the "right" outcome for the monument.  Or, as was true in my case, face great indecision and constantly shifting allegiances as new details and actions unfold.
2. The characters are well-developed and Waldman provides great insight into their personalities and the history that provides a rationale for many of their decisions.
3. The writing itself isn't anything to get excited about, but certainly isn't lacking either.
In short, the book's plot is designed to make the reader question the morality of "fairness," and in that respect is excellent.  In fact, the ideological battle trumps and obscures any flaw of the book and outshines any other positive. (5/5 stars)
Recommended To:
Anyone looking for a thought-provoking read. Basically anyone who likes a book of some substance.  Perhaps fans of Hermann Koch's, The Dinner.
Food for Thought:
A quote to raise a question: "Empower the public [to vote via forum if Mo's design is constructed] and anything ugly or challenging or difficult or produced by an out-of-favor group will be fair game"

The questions being, how far can we allow controversy in art?  How heavily do we need to weigh public opinion when looking at national remembrance?  What is the role of censorship and/or trigger warnings in our society, how much attention should we pay to those?

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