The Submission

Like The Mirage, Amy Waldman's The Submission engages in a bit of alternate history:  What if in 2003 a jury selected a design for the memorial to the victims of 9/11 only to discover afterwards that the designer was an American-born, non-practicing Muslim named Mohammad Khan?  Waldman gives us a number a perspectives on the controversy, but ultimately they all revolve around that of Claire Burwell, the only representative of the victims' families on the jury and initially the strongest advocate for Khan's design.

With its parade of types gleefully misunderstanding one another, The Submission recalls nothing so much as The Bonfire of the Vanities (which Waldman herself invokes digressively in a character portrait).  As in Wolfe's farce, Deeply Held Principles are incinerated and crushed by Unintended Consequences, and the only relationships that preserve their meaning are personal.

Reading The Submission during the controversy over Anne-Marie Slaughter's unintentionally anti-capitalist essay reinforced the sense of privilege that admitted Claire to the jury in the first place and affirms her role in bringing the narrative to its conclusion.  All other players are too freighted by their class and cultural baggage to empathize with anyone else.  The closure Waldman affords to Claire is not available to anyone else, and Waldman never suggests it should be.

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